This thesis deals with child labour in artisanal and small scale mines in two case studies: Kalima and Kampene in the Province of Maniema, DR Congo. The objectives of this paper have been formulated in the form of three research questions which investigate the working conditions of child miners, their self-perception, and the consequences of the lack of a functioning state for child miners.

The paper used a qualitative approach employing multiple-methods such as interviews, observation, and audio-visual material with a supporting role.

After a description of the working conditions, schedules, and tasks of children in the artisanal mining sites, the thesis focuses on the analysis of the self-perception of children following Rosatto’s “Freirean Mapping of Optimism and Desire”. Through this model, four attitudes among child miners have been identified: antagonism, fatalistic optimism, resilient optimism and transformative optimism. Combining the theoretical model and the empirical data gathered during fieldwork, it has been possible to give an explanation of the attitudes that children have towards their working environment and more in general towards their situation as “oppressed group”. Consequently, employing Freire’s theory of oppression, it was possible to analyse the answers of child miners concerning their future. Through this theoretical frameworks, my interviewees among child miners in Kalima and Kampene can mostly be described as in a pre-conscientizaçao phase, in which they still do not perceive their status of oppressed, but they rather tend to empathize with their oppressors.

Finally, employing the theory of failed states, it was possible to identify the consequences of the lack of a functioning state on child miners, namely: lack of future critical intellectuals (with direct repercussion on the country’s future), dehumanization, powerlessness, marginalization, and inversion of roles.

The thesis concludes with some final remarks and future implications for both research as well as practice.