Speed Reads

righting a wrong

Child miner starts new life as a student, due to the kindness of strangers

It's estimated that 40,000 children mine cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo, difficult work that pays little and prevents them from getting an education, but one young miner was recently able to leave that life behind and take on a new role: student.

Cobalt is used in electronics batteries, and a CBS News investigation last month put a spotlight on the children who are breathing in toxins and injuring themselves while mining. Some are orphans like Ziki Swaze, 11, who mined in order to provide for his elderly grandmother and siblings. Swaze told CBS News correspondent Debora Patta that he felt "very bad because I can see my friends going to school, and I am struggling." His dream, he told her, was to get an education.

Viewers were touched by Swaze's story, and gave enough money to send Ziki and his siblings Ruth, Emerson, and Simitri to school. The school is run by Sister Catherine Mutindi of Good Shepherd International Foundation, who has helped more than 1,000 kids leave the mines. Good Shepherd, which is trying to raise enough money to help another 500 child miners, also provides money for Swaze's household, as his grandmother cannot work. Swaze told CBS News if he becomes a government minister, "I would ask all the children who work in the mines to go to school so they can become like me."

There's no need for kids to mine cobalt, as there are enough adults to do the work, Patta said, and despite airing the segment last month, CBS News has not heard back from any of the major companies who use cobalt mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She did have an update on Ziki Swaze: He was so excited to be in school that on his second day, he got there hours early and cleaned the classroom before anyone else arrived. Catherine Garcia