When we think about war-affected children and ponder over how unfortunate it is for adolescents to be deprived of their right to education. Rarely do we think about the children whose youth was stripped off of them. The children who were abducted, forcibly recruited or even voluntarily joined; the Child Soldiers.
It’s the sad reality that the use of child soldiers has spread to almost every region of the world and to every armed conflict. For a child to witness such atrocities and partake in this form of violence- rips them away from their childhood. These children are forever scarred by the traumatic experiences they went through. To make matters worse, most child soldiers are removed from the civilian population, and they cannot benefit from any form of education opportunities- formal or informal. For example in Myanmar, Children have been often forcibly conscripted into the national army (Tatmadaw Kyi). It’s nerve-wracking how this trend is only increasing as Ten countries were using child soldiers in 2013 in government military operations, compared to seven in the 2012. These ten are the Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Myanmar, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Not only do child soldiers suffer greatly during conflict times but it’s unfortunate how their suffering only increases once the conflict ends. There are unimaginable psychological consequences which these children have to endure such as PTSD, depression, hate and the general inability to cope with daily life. Post-conflict zones need to reintegrate child soldiers back into civilian life and these children have to establish a completely new different identity. Can you imagine having to completely change and let go the way of life and set of values you had adopted in order to survive over the years?
When it comes to educational opportunities, these children are unable to attain education as they are usually too old to join the formal educational system, even if they want to. Access to education is one of the most often requested supports by demobilized child soldiers. In Liberia, 77 percent of former child soldiers said they wanted to return to school. This is the sad state of affairs as these children are deprived of their fundamental human right to education. There are several accounts of child soldiers yearning to have chosen education over partaking in the armed conflict. As a child soldier taking part in the conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo notes, “We heard that we could get money there [in the armed group]. I went because I wanted to get enough money to go back to school.”
This and the lack of other socio-economic opportunities is what makes child soldiers voluntarily join the armed forces. The tragedy stands with the fact-that they have no other option...