Role of formal education in facilitating the reintegration of ex-child soldiers in Northern Uganda: A case study of Lira district..
The world over, in more than twenty countries, there are estimated 300,000 children who are serving as soldiers for rebel groups and government forces in armed conflicts (UNICEF, 2002). There have been some progress in the last four years as “tens of thousands of child soldiers have been demobilised but many remained in or have been recruited and used in armed conflicts”, but no recent estimate exists (CSUCS, 2008: 15). Wars between countries, civil wars between tribes or rebels and government forces, have been happening in many developing countries. Such wars have given birth to child soldiers, majority of whom are found in developing countries such as Cambodia, Colombia, DRC, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, among others. When these child soldiers are demobilised following peace agreements, lobbying for their freedom by international organisations, rescued, rarely released from rebel forces, or escaped from captivity, they become ex-child soldiers. These ex-child soldiers return home either as children or youth who need to be reintegrated back into the community they were forcefully uprooted from as in the case of Northern Uganda. Nonetheless, all ex-child soldiers need to be reintegrated, no matter how they got into rebel groups or government forces and formal education is one of the strategies for facilitating their reintegration. Article 39 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN-CRC) affirms the right to rehabilitation and reintegration of the ex-child soldiers. The specific objectives of the study includes; role of formal education in giving life skills and values that facilitate reintegration of ex-child soldiers in the community, the effects it has in reintegration of ex-child soldiers into the community and the challenges faced within study area in using the strategy. Key findings of the study include; ex-child soldiers learn respect, games and sports, drama, dances, leadership, praying, debating, dressing, and gain hope among others. Effects of formal education in reintegration of ECSs is that the skills and values learnt from school such as; tolerance, empathy, selflessness, critical thinking, peer resistance, among others are used in everyday life to do the right things, hence promoting their reintegration in the community. Challenges faced in using the strategy range from; socio-cultural, economic, political, and technological, to others outside the mentioned categories above. Poverty if not tackled with concerted efforts of GoU, development partners and Ugandans remains one of the biggest challenges faced in using formal education as a strategy to facilitate reintegration of ECSs into the community. People in rural areas should become the willing poor, in other words be proactive and optimistic about life other than pessimistic.