Children Carve Stones [Archives:1998/36/Culture]

September 7 1998

Due to the hard economic and social situation, Yemen has begun to witness many negative social phenomena such as child labor. This contravenes international child rights conventions and agreements endorsed by Yemen. According to World Bank estimates, the number of poor people in Yemen is about 2.6 million.
Moreover, studies indicate that 41.9% of Yemeni children work to support their families. This is, I consider, a border line between poverty and subsistence.
According to reports by the International Labor Organization (ILO), one of the main reasons behind child labor is the inefficiency of the education system, which leads gradually to unemployment. In 1991, studies showed that 45% of Yemeni illiterate people are unemployed. This number rose to 65% in 1997, including a large number of children.
The widespread poverty and the widening gap between urban and rural people causes similar problems. The parents make many children leave school and take hazardous jobs to support their families.
For example, in Sa’ada governorate, about 50% of the children in the Shawareq Razih village had already left schools and gone to work in quarries and mines 1,000 to 2,000 meters deep. They go inside mines to search for stones that can be carved and shaped as pots and pans or figurines. This process takes many stages.
Mosleh, aged 12, explains: “An expert supervises the process of taking out the suitable stones from the mines. Then we, the carvers, begin shaping them into different things.
“Usually, we use an iron hammer to give the stone the basic shape that we want. Then we use the chisel to improve the appearance of the object. Finally, we use sandpaper to make the surface of the object smooth and shining.”

Mrs. Bint Saleh, 85, teaches children the right ways of carving. She says that the pots made of stones are much better than those made of other materials. They, she explains, give a good taste to food and keep it hot for a longer time. “Moreover, they are rust and fire proof,” she explained.
Badr Mansoor, 10, says that he left school and works now carving stones because he wants to support his family. He is paid nearly 2,000 to 2,5000 riyal every month, according to the amount of work done.
Despite the hot weather and the numerous hazards inside mines, these children work and work. This is a sad story of the horrible loss of the coming generations. What is really saddening is that these children believe that education is of no importance.
Fouad Al-Mashraqi, 11, says: “The government employment doesn’t give you much. You will study all your life and finally you will get a measly salary. But if I improve myself in carving, I will earn more money. Employing children has begun to take place in many sectors of society and this is a serious sign of an illiterate new generation.
By Mahyoub Al-Kamali