In the brick factories : boys and mules

Teams of mules are used to transport heavy loads of bricks to and from the kilns.   They are driven by young boys and young men who cajole these beasts with sticks and shouts.   It is a hard life for both.   Young boys – often barely into their teens – are ‘leased’ out by their parents to the brick factories for the season for an insubstantial sum – paid in advance – which the child has to earn through work.  

The boys live in their own quarters together, without families.  Their shifts can be for ten days before they earn a day off – but on that day there is showering and laundry to do – hardly relaxing.  

The animals work in pairs.  Some have a front and rear leg tied together to ensure they keep a steady pace.   All stop for lunch – but the food available in the brick factories is sparse.  Some mule runners are gentle with their animals, whilst others have developed a hardness that spills into their treatment of the animals and also how they meet the outside world.   Many in the brick factories are quick with a ‘namaste’ except for these workers, who often present a blank and unyielding expression.

They have proven to be a hard group for UEMS collaborate with so as to develop a better working life for boys and beasts – the demands of the job, as well as the relentless working hours means there has been little time for access.  We ran a drawing session with them last year – which was extremely well attended and received.   When the foreman tried to get the boys back to work, we asked for an extra half hour – in the end even he was a committed participant.



Loading the mule with dry bricks.



A young mule driver steering the animals to collect more bricks. It is a dusty environment.



Mule with a full load of dry bricks heading towards the kiln. Notice the rope tying the legs together.







The environment itself can erode any softness in the workers as they age; they can become hardened and unreceptive





Lunch is not always terribly rewarding. They are also fed hay also back in their stables at the end of the day.



Animals and drivers run back and forwards to collect and deposit their loads. They are not at liberty to slow down – supervisors shout for them to get a move on.