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Breaking rocks a job for youngsters

Breaking rocks a job for youngsters

A COOL swim in the sea following a hard day breaking rocks would seem like a fair

expectation, especially if you are only 8-years old.

But half the children working in a quarry just outside Kampong Som have never ever

seen the beach just 3 kilometers away.

They go swimming in a polluted pond in the middle of the quarry. They enjoy it, but

know that the smell of the water is not so good.

"I wanted to go to the beach with my brother and sister many times," says

Peon, who has been there once, "but mother and father do not allow us to go.

"They are scared that we'll get run over by a car."

About 100 children live at the quarry.

Of the 72 spoken to, 30 work in the quarry breaking or carrying stones.

Of the 42 children that do not have to work, seven look after younger brothers and

sisters or keep the household, 27 are under 8-years-old, one is handicapped and only

seven are older than eight - the age when it is considered appropriate to start work.

The children quarriers spend between one and 12 hours a day there, seven days a week.

The daily average is 5.4 hours of work.

Thirty-two of the 72 children go to school but not all of them go for the full four

hours it is open.

The informal chief of the little village in the quarry tells the parents that education

is important, but for many it is just not viable.

"I try to convince them to send their children to school, but many refuse. Some

need the money the children earn. Others are just scared to send them to school because

the school is so far away."

"It takes four days to produce one load of stones," says Ren, a 15-year-old

girl (pictured at right). She forgets to mention that it takes the combined efforts

of the whole family to do it: she, her five brothers and sisters aged 14, 12, 11,

8 and 6, and her parents.

They are paid 50,000 riel per load.

Her eldest brother quit school a few months ago. A neighbor says: "He has to

help with the work, because they need the money."

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