Over the past two decades, technology has moved up the graph leaps and bounds. The w.w.w. has made the information/ communication aspect of the world much smaller. Yet, what is going on in social justice globally. What about the rehabilitation of child soldiers left behind by war?
Being comfortably unaware, like most, I was enlightened when I met Youne, a 34-year-old teacher living in Kenitra Africa. Communicating via Internet, he told me his story.
Youne lives in a small town on the outskirts of beautiful Casablanca. He teaches young children a variety of subjects in the countryside'; he would call it, fifteen miles from his home. He traveled by foot and hitch hiking on a very busy highway to work every morning and evening under an excruciating sun in summers beginning and through winds and rain in the winter seasons chill. He earns 7 dollars per day Canadian money and supports his mother and younger brother who cannot work. He spoke little of his father who raised him, his two brothers and two sisters. Youne did mention once, maybe twice that his father had a military upbringing in the armies there in Morocco.
That is all he would mention on the subject of his father.
He then went on to describe to me the children at his school. In total, they made 36 students. The children ranged from age seven to thirteen. He was responsible to teach them, overall and individually and at each their level, a number of lessons. He recalled one girls parents being so grateful for her education they offered and would bring hot breads and goats milk for him at lunchtime. He went on saying how most of his students have to work on farms to help their family provide food, clothing and shelter and how this would affect their schoolwork. Some were more interested in making as much money as they could to buy a promised and much sought after freedom from this Hell countryside' they have come to know all to well. Lawyers there offer the chance for immigration to other countries for a fee, but there is an unbelievable waiting list attached to the agreement. The army on a bribe takes some children. Overall, the success rate is very low.
I went on to question him about his life growing up in Morocco. I asked how he escaped the lure of the army. What kept him going through the hardships he had earlier described?
He said he had always feared the army but knew that his faith would help him avoid that road. He did not admit that the army's money afforded the house that roofed them through his father being a soldier. He frowned remembering his youth. He recalled that he had wished not to turn out to be like his father.
He said this; with great prayer, perseverance and hope for a chance to immigrate to a country with a better government is how I can go on.'
He mentioned that since a young boy he believed he could do this through educating himself to the greatest of his ability. He also mentioned that this was not an easy task in Africa.
Education in sub-Sahara Africa falls behind most other developing regions, mainly because of high poverty. Two out of every five African children are not so fortunate to attend school.
Youne and fellow teachers, over the past 10 years, have been face to the floor with Moroccan government officials over issues of funding for schools and amenities therein, not to mention the course outlines and availability. The recruiting of teachers is unsuccessful because of the low salary paid and the overwhelming amount of students per teacher ratio.
There was a surprising raise in revenues spent towards education in sub-Sahara Africa during the late eighty's and early ninety's. Since 1995, there has been an ever-gradual drop in funding due to structural adjustment programs. African governments cutting expenditures leaves the educational industries without enough money to upkeep the schools that are existent. Public sector salaries were frozen and the teachers spent less time in the classrooms more time searching outside jobs.
Over and above all that, convincing children that their survival and freedom depends greatly on their education is next to impossible. They have learned through experience that on a stable basis food, shelter and minimal necessities come mainly from their government army(s) or militant leader(s).
Youne, after looking at his fathers' picture, said; it is all worth it, my struggles to stay free of the army.
I want to share this little chance with my students.
I believe that Education is the key to freedom, I will not give up.'
So you see, not only are there child soldiers in war torn areas of the world but also during times of so-called peace are the militants and governments of the world recruiting children for future wars. These children are easy prey due to poverty and lack of education. However, here is the catch22; War breeds poverty, poverty directly affects education, and typically, ignorant people make war.
You might be asking at this point, what we can do about it.
This is where I want to mention Tolerance, "the more people fear the more they tolerate it" fear is a reaction to ignorance. What combats fear is knowledge and this cannot be born until the creation of awareness.
What better way to help those who cannot protect themselves from the evil horrors war brings, but to educate them to the reality of the situation and offer a tangible solution through funding and educating before they are tempted to join.
Then there are the ones who have been in the wars and left behind by their only family, the militant army. These children need people to flock to them, love them, and have the opportunity to seek counseling at the expense of their government. Teach them how to re-gain their spirit. Give them a compensated salary along with what the UN team recommended in 1996, programs for social rehabilitation. These should be a basic right to all children worldwide. Lower the bar on immigration laws. Set up funding for orphaned child soldiers to immigrate to the country with better government', quoting Youne.
Prevention, bringing it home.
Any army that joins forces with a militant army that has employed children under the age of 19 years should be treated the same as the adjoining, charged with war crime'.
If we are to free children from the clutches of the armies worldwide, why not start here in Canada and the U.S.,
Governments should be about combating poverty and education in their own backyards not combating other countries with rich oil fields.
Many cities in Canada, with low employment and an above average high school dropout rate, have numerous young people join the armed forces. In my own hometown while driving, I saw
A recruitment tent boldly placed next to a children's amusement park.
I pulled in, parked and walked around mingling through the line of young people. Meeting a young Canadian boy, 19 years old who had just signed up, I asked him why he joined the armed forces. Shrugging his shoulders, the young man told me his tale.
Having trouble in high school with his English subjects and not graduating, he tried living on his own and working at a local coffee shop. Because of a fall, he broke his leg and had to stop working. His fiancee worked and carried them through until his leg healed. He then Read about the army recruiting people and the offers of salary and education. I saw the glitter of the cinema picture painted in his eyes with slogans like "Be all that you can Be, Join the Army".
Since wars beginning there is this ego of a young man and the lure of fortune and fame.
Don't get me wrong, I am not knocking military funding and education. I am saying there are under-educated young men joining armies here in our own countries to escape poverty everyday. Mere adolescence sent off to combat with little experience.
On that note, keeping Youne, his students and this young Canadian boy, in mind; ask the question; at what age level is it appropriate for children to join an army and for what reasons are they joining.'
Is it an educated choice? How can we stop the cycle? How can we help heal the wounded child soldier?'
Don't just SCAN this article, jump up, toss it aside, as you get off to work. Take the time to read and inform yourself of the issue at hand, raise awareness. Do not sit in silent tolerance. Become involved, a voice for those who cannot heal alone, a soldier of sorts, your sword being your words.