Child Soldiers

Starting in 2004, Canadian Aid for South Sudan has launched a program that employs demobilized youth to assist in building primary schools. Bricks — tens of thousands of them — must be made to complete the classrooms. Using soil from the region mixed with a 10% cement solution, the bricks will made over a period of months. They will form the walls of the 16 classrooms CASS is building.

Former child soldiers making bricks to build a school
Former child soldiers making bricks to build a school

Leaders from the Diocese of Rumbek will design programs involving recreation, education, conflict management and reintegration back into community. These will run concurrently with the brickmaking.All over war-torn southern Sudan, child soldiers are laying down their arms, putting aside their uniforms, and making their way back to their homes. As young as eight years of age, most of these youth have known little but family loss and violence.

In 2000, the Government of Canada helped lead the world in speaking out against the use of child soldiers. One of the areas mentioned was Sudan — north and south. The Southern Provisional Government has taken serious steps in the demobilization of the children that served in the military. The recently established Task Force for the Demobilization of Child Soldiers has gone a long way to convincing other governments that the southern movement is dealing seriously with the problem.

CASS has been told that the primary need for these children is education. The Secretariat for Education also asked for help in assisting

  • Traumatized child soldiers
  • Deaf child soldiers
  • Child soldiers with other physical challenges directly resulting from participation in conflict
Teenage soldiers in Sudan

Most child soldiers were enlisted when they made their way to army camps in search for food and protection. Some of these were orphans, while others were pursuing their parents. The majority of children did not actively participate in combat but were instead used as messengers, cooks and guards. However, a surprisingly large number of children were trained to use arms to defend themselves against northern government militia forces. Many of these suffered severe psychological and physical injury.What’s to be done? How can a boy of 14 sit in a primary classroom for the first time with six year olds from Grade One and not feel out of place? Clearly, these young former soldiers require special schooling, special attention and special programs to assist in their re-integration into their home societies.

Action

Through the building of primary schools, Canadian Aid for South Sudan will assist these children in the recommended and most direct manner. In addition, their personal development will be monitored by local leaders and teachers. Should difficulties be seen, appropriate action will be taken by qualified counsellors to assist in their rehabilitation.