Archive for the ‘Experiences’ Category
A former child soldier who is one of the key founding members of Mind to Change Organization has graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in Geography Linguistics Education (B.A. Ed. Geo./Ling.).
This is a clear test of the aim of the organization being established by one Anthropologist called Ginny Mooy together with the former child soldier based on their experience with the subject (child soldier).
I voluntarily became a child soldier in a Sierra Leone’s leven years rebel due to the death of my parents in 2007. Before that time, I was being taking care of by my parents, running from one village to another in escape for our lives. But even with that, wherever we settled, my parents will make sure that I started attending school. I attended a lot of displaced school right round the country wherever we found safety.
My life was safe through education. In 2007, I was supposed to to write the Basic Education Certificate Education (B.E.C.E.), and that was the year the Arm Forces Revolutionary Council (A.F.R.C.) took over power. For the rest of the year, there was no school. In 2008, the Government asked us to write the examination and I was fortunate to pass the exams, but school was not properly functioning in Segbwema where I was attending. My parent asked me to go to Kenema, the Regional Head Quarter Town for the Eastern Region. There I got a message that rebel had killed my family.
From that time, I was having no option to continue with life but to take up volunteer work with Civil Defense Force (CDF) that was fighting to safe the lives of the peaceful citizen. CDF was a fighting force that dominated by 95% of illiterate young men without any woman. I started the volunteer work in Segbwema to write their names, pass (a document that will allow somebody to travel in their territory), and most of the administrative work for me to survive. I did that until end of the war in 1999 when the symbolic disarmament started. From there I went to Freetown, because I heard an information that there is an opportunity for children took part in the war and also those that have lost their parent.
I went to Freetown in 1999, and I was staying at Brookfield Hotel that was occupied by the CDF. Their also there was a vacancy for somebody that can read and write to take over the administrative affairs of the boys, and I applied for the position. Successfully, I was giving the position which I held for four (4) months. And we were repatriated to our various home of origin, and I choose Kenema. In Kenema, School, I was interested in doing volunteer work for people to be able to meet my day to day need including my younger brother I met in Kenema that survived the death.
Life was not easy for me, but I took my education very seriously, base on what my father used to tell me about education (may their soul rest in perfect peace). With my interest in volunteer work, one Organization went to Kenema Called Conciliation Resources with aim of providing recreation for post-conflict young people. There also I became I volunteer, and I was given Le 10,000 (2 euro) after every three months, but there was library facility without internet.
Based on my performance, I recommended to be assisting researchers that started visiting the country to do research, and one of the research felt sympathy for me with the promised that if I pass the University entrance examination will help me to have University education, which is a privilege in my country where 85% of the population is illiterate. In 2006 December, I met Ginny Mooy as a research assistance to her, and she felt deep sympathy for my situation and we became friends. From there we found out that we have similar ideas about the world, we decided to start this organization.
What a child soldier is needs no further explanation. We’ve all seen pictures and news-footage of young boys and girls fighting wars. Still, even though the images speak for themselves, questions remain. What is it like having to fight, when you’re still a kid? Movies like Blood Diamond give us a little insight, but always from an external perspective. Biased, and for the sake of box office numbers not diving into the details of this difficult and complex subject.
Through what we see in the media we tend to think of child soldiers as people who are severely traumatized, and will remain violent for the rest of their lives. The question arises whether these people even stand a chance of becoming normal citizens again. A justified question as such, since most of us believe that once you’ve killed someone you’ll always be a killer. No matter how much sense that makes to us, to the child soldiers it seems unfair. Especially when you realize the things they have to endure to leave their pasts behind them, trying to gain acceptance from their communities again. Being treated as ‘ruined for life’ is an added burden with a devastating effect on their lives.
We mean well, being genuinely concerned about them. We can’t even begin to think what it would be like had we been forced to kill when we were only children, and somehow it’s hard to believe we would ever be able to.
But that’s exactly what I’d like to ask you to do. Imagine what it would be like to be a child-soldier. Sit down, take your time, and close your eyes in-between sentences if you like. Imagine finding yourself in a dusty landscape. Derelict, bullet-ridden buildings to your left, lush green forest to your right. You’re eight years old. So far life has been all school and play, but now you find yourself in the midst of a violent and cruel war. An mob of rebels, raging with fury, appears from behind one of the huts, carrying enormous machetes and automatic rifles. The biggest one of them appears to be the leader, a black bandana covering his right eye. A vicious scar trails along the left side of his face. In a blur of bone-chilling screams, your grandparents are slaughtered before your very eyes. The noise takes control of your mind as you watch people scatter in all directions. Bullets are tearing through the air like a hailstorm. Your dad grabs you and together with your mother you make a run for the bush.