EDUCATION PREVENTS CHILDREN FROM BEING ENLISTED IN ARMED CONFLICT
BY RACHUONYO DUNCAN
Millions of girls and boys live and breathe actual or threatened violence in conflict-affected fragile states their lives blighted by trauma, displacement and a denial of their most basic rights, including education.
Education is a human right that demands fulfillment even in situation of danger and deprivation. It is also what children and parents consistently ask for even at the height of crisis.
According to Sophie Omutanyi, African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect, ANPPCAN, Kenya, she says that most of the children have been denied their right to education as a result of endless conflicts in their countries.
She was speaking during the International Conference on the impact of armed conflict and terrorism on children and youth which was held in Nairobi, where at least 30 International experts and delegates attended the conference.
“Positive education shapes the mind set of children. They grow understanding conflict and violence is wrong and therefore strives to maintain peace among themselves and within their society,” she explains.
Omutanyi, ANPPCAN,Kenya, says that quality education provides a platform from which other Millennium Development Goals, (MDGs), can be achieved , and can promote peace and development more broadly. She further added that the benefits of education are lasting because the children who acquire them transfer them to the next generation.
“It is unalienable duty of the international community to ensure that quality education is provided before, during and after conflicts, and particularly when peace settlements are negotiated,” she adds.
She further added that a child’s attendance at school also grants parents the time and space to rebuild their livelihoods, re-establish sources of income, or simply come to terms with their experience.
“When children are occupied with positive activities, even parents feel free to do other key roles that can build their families,” she explains.
It is believed that there are at least 250,000 child soldiers in the world today and 40% of the child soldiers are girls, who often used as non-combatant ‘wives’ (Sex slaves) of the male combatants.
Most child soldiers are aged between 14 and 18. While many enlist ‘voluntarily’, research shows that such adolescents see few alternatives to involvement in armed conflict. Some enlist as a means of survival in war-torn regions after family, social and economic structures collapse, or after seeing family members tortured or killed by government forces or armed groups. Others join up because of poverty and lack of work or educational opportunities. Many girls have reported enlisting to escape domestic servitude, violence and sexual abuse.
She also added that conflict-affected countries are more often than not the furthest away from reaching the MDGs. Over half the world’s 72 million out-of-school children -37 million- live in conflict-affected fragile states, even though these countries make up just 13% of the world’s population.
“ The number of boys and girls who are not attending schools is alarming as a result of armed conflict, we need ensure that the number is reduced, education and awareness is the only weapon to end armed conflicts in many parts of the countries.
Omutanyi adds: Parents, governments and the society at large have a key role to play in ensuring children stay in schools and the right virtues and values are passed to them, this ensures children become advocates of their own rights, stay in school and report to the established and existing systems when approached with such groups.
“When children access the right education whether formal or informal, they are equipped with skills like association skills, decision making skills that would prevent them from child exploitation by the extremist groups since they are aware of their rights and well informed on the existing reporting systems.
Although education has long been an important component in developing work, its appearance on the humanitarian agenda is relatively recent, even a decade ago, few humanitarians considered education within their scope of action.
Education must remain a priority during times of crisis as much as during time of stability. Without education, there will be fewer citizens able to contribute to rebuilding their country. This could fuel a downward spiral that increases the likelihood of future outbursts of violence. Studies show that increased levels of primary and secondary quality education in a country reduce conflict.
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