The number of conflicts worldwide may be in decline but new forms of warfare, often involving warlords, mean that children and youth are frequently used as soldiers.
Worldwide in over half of the states at war in 2003, there were reports of combatants under 15. Among the reasons why children become combatants are: security, protection, food, boredom, humiliation, frustration, intimidation, promises of education and employment or to avenge the deaths of family members.
For children recruited for combat, who have missed out on schooling, education can serve as a vital component in their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Demobilized child combatants require education programmes which take into account their specific experiences of war and prepare them for peace and reconciliation. Some may wish to resume formal education, while others may need vocational and skills training. Significant numbers of girls are involved in armed conflicts but few are included in demobilization programmes, perhaps because of the stigma of sexual abuse which is often prevalent in conflict.
Some areas of interventions for child soldiers:
- Programmes and activities tailored to the specific needs of child soldiers.
- Education combined with psychosocial support and income generation assistance such as apprenticeships and loans for micro-enterprise.
- Education programmes combined with initiatives to stop rejoining child soldiers.
- Training and support at all levels for lasting reintegration and follow-up studies carried out on ex-soldiers. Visits or monetary/material incentives to ex-soldiers and their families are often essential to keep them in the reintegration programme.
- Education programmes including curricula and teaching methodologies adapted or created to take into account the psychological state of children with war experiences.