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Kids Eke Out A Living From Stone Cracking 

By Lerah Leke Fonge

CameroonPostline.com — Under rain or sun,RodrickAkumbon, 8, FranklineAmblablo, 8, FranklinSuhebon, 9, and Solomon Kufang, 12, can be seen hammering on stones behind their abode in Bakweri Town, Buea.

The foursome, who are children of a popular food vendor in Buea, Mama Justine fondly called MamiAgete, will leave no stone untouched around their vicinity as their daily routine seems to be revolving around school and stone cracking. Even though MamiAgete seems to be making a fortune from her local restaurant, she allowed her children to engage in manly jobs in a bid to provide supplement for the household. “We crack stones all the time after school and our mom is fine with it,” says 8-year-old Franklin Amblabo.

On what motivated them to engage on such strenuous job at this very tender age, Solomon Kufang, the eldest, said:“I saw the way others were makingso much money out of it and I, together with my brothers, decided to start ours at our backyard. We started this job early this year.”

He said cracking stones actually pays. Hear him:“Sometimes, we can crack stones which can amount to over 8 wheel barrows of gravel and one wheel barrow of gravel costsFCFA 1500.When we sell the gravel, we share the proceeds among ourselves and some of the money is given to our mother”.

To him, their mother has no objection to their trade. She can only stop them when she needs help at the restaurant. The Primary Five kids said they are strong kids trying tomake their money in order to buy theirclothes, food and other school needs, without waiting for their parents. “Our activities have no effects on our studies because we do it after school and it in turnsbecause we have only one hammer.

After cracking stones, we studyat night”. In spite of claims that they study, Akumbon, 8, and Amblablo, 8, at Class 5, cannot spell their names. In spite of the benefits accrued, Solomon disclosed that they sometimes have wounds and blisters inflicted on their hands by the hammer. This reporter gathered from a professional stonecracker,Charles Tembong, that they can realise up to FCFA 120,000 a month, and yet stone crackers pay no taxes.

He disclosed that,a single load of gravel, which is about 15 – 20 wheel barrows,could fetch over FCFA 45,000. When asked if they get into conflictswith companies like Satom, which deal in the sale of gravel, he answered in the negative. “We are small scale business people and our customers are small builders. Our raw material is debris from the mountain.

They are washed down from the hill by heavy rains. From there we gather and turn them into gravel,” he explained. Tembong maintains that their only problem is shortage of raw material, especially during the dry season,and at times injuries to the hand can be fatal. This reporter observed while greeting his interviewees at the end of the chat that their palms were as hard as the sole of an elephant.

First published in The Post print edition no 01459

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