Education or mining?

"Why is it so easy to give weapons, but so difficult to give books? Why is it so easy to build tanks, but so difficult to build schools?"

Malala Yousafzai

On October 10, 2014, Malala gave a speech at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. At 16, the young woman from Pakistan is the youngest laureate in the history of the Nobel Prize and by far the youngest in the history of the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala has been a UN Messenger of Peace since 2017.

According to estimates by Unicef, the United Nations Children's Fund, 152 million children between the ages of five and 14 work worldwide; and often under under slavery-like conditions. The number of unreported cases is probably much higher, because estimates of the extent of child labor can increase greatly if unpaid work is also taken into account, according to the report.

This exploitation of children is particularly common in non-industrialized countries. Enslaved children work on plantations, in brothels, as beggars and household slaves.

Despite all these frightening figures, one thing is important: an enormous amount has improved, because according to the UNICEF report, there were still 246 million working children in the year 2000.  

But they still exist in far too many places in the world: children who have no chance of school, education or a promising future. They are forced to work out of necessity or out of habit.

This was and still is the case in Bolivia, although much has been achieved there since 1952, when the photographer Bock-Schroeder documented and published the story of Bolivia's mine workers and their families. Although that was 70 years ago, the same is also true today:

Child mortality and malnutrition are high, and the health care system is poorly developed. Even though child labor in the mines is now illegal, they still work there. It is dark and stuffy deep underground, far away from daylight. But the tunnels are so narrow in some places that only a child can crawl through on all fours. And so there are some of the youngest blasters in the world.

So quality education falls by the wayside, leaving the next generation poor to mine gold, copper, silver and other mineral resources for our jewelry and smartphones.

Peter Bock-Schroeder: Silbermine Bolivien, 1952 © Bock-Schroeder-Foundation 

Rineke Dijkstra: Marianna, 2014 © Rineke Dijkstra, Marian Goldman Gallery

For us in Germany, it has become largely self-evident that childhood, learning through play, leisure and education belong together. Coupled with the protection of not being forced to work and in a country that has lived in peace for decades.

Just how high-quality education can be and what opportunities open up to children when they are born in the "right" country is something we experience in normal times when our children invite us. Invited to proudly show off what they have learned in sports, vaulting, theater or even ballet.

Education far beyond the normal school education. This photo taken by Rineke Dijkstra shows the impressive possibilities that daily life offers our children.

The Dutch photographer was seriously injured in a traffic accident as a young woman. She subsequently documented her training in the swimming pool and her own vulnerability when she was unable to work for several months. This experience shaped her focus on the people she portrayed with her camera. 

Among other things, from 1992 to 2002, she photographed children and teenagers in the U.S. and Europe in swimwear on the beach. It was through these Beach Portraits that Dijkstra experienced her breakthrough in the mid-1990s.

Dijkstra describes her photographs by saying, "I'm waiting for that unprotected moment, the situation in which someone forgets their pose and a person's true nature reveals itself." With the photo shown, she won the Hasselblad Award 2017.

Peter Bock-Schroeder ist einer der noch wenig bekannten und doch großartigen Fotografen des 20. Jahrhunderts. Er studierte in Berlin und reiste nach seinem Studium im Alter von 18 Jahren als wandernder Geselle durch Europa. In den Niederlanden verliebte er sich in Landschaften. Diese Liebe und ein ganz besonderer Blickwinkel begleiteten sein ganzes Berufsleben. Er reiste zu vielen Ländern dieser Erde und so auch 1952 nach Bolivien. Dort fotografierte Bock-Schroeder das harte Leben der indigenen Minenarbeiter.