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A Child Soldier's Struggle

“I will make my body a bomb that will blast the flesh of Zionists, the sons of pigs and monkeys. I will tear their bodies into little pieces and cause them more pain than they will ever know.” A., age 11


“I joined the anti-Balaka for one reason... because the Seleka made me an orphan. They killed my mother and my father...” Choko, 17


“I didn’t want to do it, but the opposition had killed my family, and I had to join to protect myself.” Lionel, 11


The effects of war, the fighting, shooting, bombs and deaths are sights no one should have to see, least of all children, yet child soldiers more often than not have no choice.

Child soldiers are usually either one of the two: those that join by force, or those that join voluntarily. But in both cases, the effects are the same. They are recruited for a number of different jobs from messengers or spies to fighters, human shields or suicide bombers and once recruited, many are brainwashed, trained, given drugs and then sent into battle with orders to kill. Occasionally educational institutes also play a role in training child soldiers. In a few areas, militant groups run the schools themselves and use these schools as recruiting and training institutes for future child soldiers and terrorists. For example, orphanages in Sri Lanka have shrines set up that honour suicide bombers.


Child soldiers are already victims of severe psychological and emotional trauma, severe battle wounds such as loss of limbs, malnutrition, diseases and some are even executed for the crimes that they were forced to commit. But these children are not allowed relief even after the conflict has ended. There are usually no arrangements, specific treatments or educational facilities available for these former child soldiers to help them reintegrate back into society; female soldiers, in particular, tend to be overlooked and excluded from this process. As a result, most of these children might end up on the streets or become involved in crime.


What is needed for these children are places where they can be safe and recover from the psychological impact of war, where they can receive physical and mental health facilities specially catered for their needs and where they can slowly learn to adapt and reintegrate back into their communities and families. In addition, they should also be taught life skills, be given vocational training and be integrated back into education to provide them with better opportunities in the future.


An education highlighted by its protective nature towards refugee children would establish a sense of security, trust and appreciation along with the encouragement of growth and opportunities. An atmosphere of this nature between students, teachers and the educational body as a whole is vital to mitigate the mentally and physically traumatic effects of active exposure to violence. By submerging this grief-stricken youth in an opportunistically healing environment, a better future for these refugees is preserved. In order to assure the physical protection of students, schools should aim to incorporate lessons on self-defence, how to access basic welfare services such as healthcare and how to respond during emergency situations. Besides this, it is important to allow the student body to participate in the contribution of ideas towards improving safety and rehabilitation protocols. This will allow them to feel involved and will greatly negate the psychological impact of feeling helpless.

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Great read, Sana. War and conflict have great effect on the minds of refugees and the IDPs. Most affected being children who witness such horrors in their early stage of life that alters their perception of what is right and wrong. I agree to your arguments regarding the psychosocial rehabilitation of children soldiers.


Moreover, i also think that the champions of Human rights like the UN need to integrate mental health in primary care of the refugees. While programs of the said kind exist in some countries, i think the reason they are not able to cater to the growing number of refugees is because of lack of funding.


However, these are measures that can be taken to rehabilitate the…


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Thank you Sana for underlining the need for rehabilitative measures specifically designed for child soldiers. I do also believe that integrating psychological programs aimed at the mental wellbeing of these children, post-trauma dealings etc into the educational programs is the need of the hour. I believe it goes hand in hand with the efforts to promote peace education in conflict-affected areas.

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Antwort an

Definitely, education is obviously vital, but we need to ensure that these children are in a state of mind where they’re ready to pursue learning once again. They need to come to terms with their experiences as well as grasp a sense of acceptance in order to move forward with their lives through schooling.

Gefällt mir

Great article! The point you mentioned about bringing them back to Education is of crucial importance here. Unless not educated properly, these children wont be able to distinguish between the "right" and the "wrong". Moreover, education and trainings can help improve their softs and hard skills which will be better for them in the future.


The question is which organizations are willing to take such steps?

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Antwort an

There’s surprisingly quite a number of organizations and NGO’s who are already working on this

The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldier Initiative, Multi-Country Demobilization and Reintegration Program and The Child Soldiers International aim to prevent the recruitment of children as soldiers, support ex-child soldiers and help them reintegrate back into society.

The Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict and War Child International Network work to help children affected by war and guarantee their rights.

There are even websites such as Childsoldiers.net which aim to help child soldiers re-enter society with the help of a school-fee sponsoring programme.

It’s reassuring to know that steps are being taken to let these children safely recover from the immense trauma they have all faced.

Gefällt mir

A great article. I think you have enlisted the practical aspects of the impact of education rather well. I think that trauma informed centres are particularly important in such scenarios that would cater to the psycho-social needs of such children. They would focus on the ergonomics of a setting as well as training of the teachers. This would ensure that the children feel safe and are able to excel despite the odds.

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Antwort an

Absolutely, adults themselves suffer from PTSD, anxiety and/or depression during war, one can only imagine what it would do to a child, that too one forced to actually take part in the fighting. It would require quite a bit of training, patience and persistence on the teachers’ and the trauma centres’ part but it would truly help the struggling children be children again.

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I agree with your point about the educational and military sector's involvement in recruiting, training, brainwashing children, and converting them into child soldiers. I do have a personal example in my family. My elder brother, in his teenager, went missing. While searching, he had been found in KPK, he was getting training for being Mujahid, and he was having the ideology of Jihad happening in Afghanistan. He was recovered and brought back home at that time. While discussing the incident with the family, he narrated that he was motivated in his Madrassa for the Jihad, and in the KPK, he was trained by army professionals. This is a very intimate and personal experience in my life that relates here, so…

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Antwort an

Thank you for recounting your personal experience. it shows first-hand how big of an impact such movements actually have on real people. Like reading Zlatas story, it gives you an insight and a wake up call that this is real, and it brings pain and it hurts families and futures. So thank you once again for sharing.

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