Maintaining a Safety Net and Peace for Former Child Soldiers in Africa: Evaluation of Peace Education Programs

Maintaining a Safety Net and Peace for Former Child Soldiers in Africa: Evaluation of Peace Education Programs

Florence Nyemba (University of Cincinnati, USA) and Rufaro Chitiyo (Tennessee Technological University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7476-7.ch004
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This chapter focuses on the challenges and opportunities associated with the implementation of peace education programs in Africa. Peace education programs are used widely to create peaceful environments for at-risk children. Their intended goals are to end violence through modeling human consciousness to resolve conflicts peacefully and to provide children with a stable socioeconomic future. Using a systematic review of literature, the authors examine how humanitarian agencies with support from the World Bank utilize peace education programs to create safety nets for former child soldiers in Africa. The challenges and opportunities of such programs are examined. The authors then propose for the adoption of a community-based participatory practice to facilitate the sustainability of peace education programs. The chapter will benefit at-risk children in war-torn African regions and all stakeholders involved in the creation of safe environments for children.
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Generally speaking, both militaries of reigning parties and members of armed opposition groups around the world target children in their recruitment efforts (United Nations, 2011). According to Listverse (2009), 10 years old is the prime time during which serious recruitment efforts begin (Listverse, 2009, para. 22). This is because children are gullible and sometimes bullied into not only enlisting but committing atrocious crimes as well. It is estimated that about 250,000 children below 18 are “fighting in conflicts around the world” (Listverse, 2009, para. 22). In addition to active military duties, other children serve as porters, cooks, guards, messengers, spies, and sex slaves (Achvrina & Reich, 2006; Hart, 2006; Johannessen & Holhersen, 2013; Tonheim, 2011;, n.d.).

Former child soldiers are considered at-risk children because of the traumatic experiences they were exposed to during the war. The International Rescue Committee admitted that children are currently being trained for combat, or to be spies or sex slaves for the wars around the world (Achvarina & Reich, 2006; Child Soldiers International, 2017; Global Report, 2008; Lancet, 2004; Rakisits, 2008). Some countries on the African continent such as Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and the Central African Republic contribute enormously to the recruitment of child soldiers (Schauer & Elbert, 2010 Global Report, 2008). Evidence indicates that if the children were lucky to be left alive, participating in combat whether willingly or through force does not benefit them after the wars had ended. Rather, most if not all these children are reported to suffer from both social and psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which affect their educational progress in schools as well as successful reintegration back into their communities (Bayer, Klasen & Adam, 2007; Hermenau et al., 2013; Ovuga, Oyok, & Moro, 2008). According to a 2007 report published by the American Institutes for Research, educating child soldiers is a complicated matter, let alone reintegrating these children back into society. As a result, such efforts need to be community-based since the issue itself is not an individual, but a community dilemma.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Humanitarian Agencies: Nongovernmental organizations that provide relief services to save lives and reduce sufferings.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: ( PTSD): A mental condition caused by traumatic events. In the case of former child soldiers, PTSD is a result of exposure to killings, tortures, and displacement among other traumatic experiences.

Evaluation and Assessment: Observing and measuring the outcomes of a program to determine if the intended goals were achieved and suggesting ways to improve.

Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR): A participatory method that involves researchers working in collaboration with community members or the individuals affected to build trusting relationships that contribute positively to the outcomes of the project.

Safety Net: Developing systems of long-term social, economic, and education support for vulnerable children.

At-Risk Children: While there is no commonly agreed upon definition, the authors define at-risk children as children exposed to traumatic experiences that affect them in their physical, cognitive, and psychosocial development.

Former Child Soldiers: Children who were involved in the war as fighters, spies, and/or sex slaves when they were below 18 years of age.

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