The direction of destruction and instability in violence has significantly hindered war-tom countries' ability to achieve the goals of Education for All (EFA) proclaimed at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal in April 2000. In some situations, the effect of war on an education system has been so profound that it seems almost impossible to reach the goals of the EFA.
There is no area unique to the disastrous effects of war on education systems. The recruiting of youngsters — boys and girls alike — into armies, military, support units, etc in all of these cases leaves other children out of school and participating in the perpetuation of war.
Worldwide wars are mostly of a peaceful disposition and affect a rising number of children directly. After being abducted from their homes, children are involved as soldiers not only in conflicts but also as informants and many types of forced laborers, including sex slaves, porters, domestic workers, and miners. They can join a kind of military “operation” as early as five years of age, allegedly.
Because of the variety of abilities that children can bring to a war effort, the easy availability of lightweight arms to protect them (the lighter the weapon, the bigger the child who can use it), the highly advanced methods used to catch, prepare and, most significantly, monitor them, the fact that they are rarely paid (and, when paid, generally in small amounts) and their prodigious numbers.
“Children,” Judith Herman observed, “are the most vulnerable of victims” and are “always reliant on their perpetrators.” Child warrior exploiters continue to apply this information to highly devious ends. When children reach organized refugee or IDP settlements, they are fairly easy to identify and serve (although not necessarily easy to influence).
They may be looking for anonymity protection in big cities. They may be surrounded by an insurgent group that refuses to allow them to flee or be stuck in a war zone that makes them fearful of moving. They may wander from hiding to hiding in search of refuge. They will work for, at best, bare subsistence wages, turning their poverty into an illicit but inexpensive source of labor. Survival and protection of very basic human rights are crucial in these and other situations. Opportunities such as formal schooling remain typically unachievable, while the danger of health risks such as HIV and sexual violence is that.
Most children meant to be in school in war-affected areas are hard to find, hard to get to kindergarten, and hard to make sure they stay there until they finish their primary education at least. The first obstacle of these three is often the toughest-children too often fight, run or cover during wars. Generally speaking, they are not really hard to get through school while in a refugee or IDP camp. Nevertheless, the number of children seeking education in war-affected areas is generally very low.
Fighting affects children in a manner that can directly affect their learning ability. Trauma is serious and pervasive in war-affected children, “and produces an image of a child's life as a pit of a catastrophe beyond repair. Nevertheless, what is as shocking as the horrific nature of child exploitation in modem warfare is proof of child resilience in the face of it. War affects lives, and while the changes are largely detrimental and often extreme, the capacity for achievement.
At first, after considering the effect of the abuse, it is difficult to understand the notion of traumatized children being able to reconstruct their lives. Trauma emerges from victimization and according to Herman, is “potentially self-perpetuating.” Herman further defines trauma as dialectic among two “psychological states of conflict” in which a person is “caught between the extremes of amnesia or reliving the trauma, between rivers of severe, debilitating emotion and arid states of no feeling whatsoever.” War's potential to affect children's lives is so strong that even limited exposure can be enduring.
As Garbarino says, “just a few incidents of war experience will create pictures of such influence[in a child] that they may reverberate over weeks, months, years... maybe a lifetime.” He also indicates that while “children as young as three may identify traumatic events” in-depth, children exposed to repetitive trauma “start mentally preparing for the next attack” by using defense mechanisms like numbing or denial. Unfortunately, while children may be “minor casualties of military conflict” whose experience of war may have been brief, children are more often trapped in wars where “an aggressor deliberately aims to mutilate, harm, and psychologically ruin the children of the opponent.”
Kids lie at the heart of fighting from Liberia to Sierra Leone to Sri Lanka. Child actors in such conflicts and refugees are typically blanketed with suffering (including their childhood) and burdened with extreme emotional distress. To them, a school can become an integral form of psychological therapy, a critically important step on the road to healing, and a bulwark against what can be extreme and extremely damaging actions (including self-destructive). Governments and players of the unification who seek to provide education for those affected by the war have a rivalry. Many who fight modem wars become specialists in using educational environments to indoctrinate and influence youngsters.' As Garbarino explained,' Youngsters tend to deal with war stress by holding fast to an agenda that describes and supports their existence.'
War perpetrators may exploit the search for meaning of children in war zones by leading them to “a cycle of dehumanization” (What the enemy does is less than human) and demonization” (The enemy is the devil) by “training children to seek protection from their enemies as the road to emotional survival and personal integration.” The consequence is a dedicated band of traumatized children participating in warfare, being “little bees” in the jargon of Colombia's guerrilla groups, or, in the Colombian paramilitary language, "little bells". Given the horrors of war, some children nevertheless strive to become “happy, lively, active people.”
In conflict-affected children, a growing body of research shows that “it may be possible to cultivate resilience.” Apfel and Simon have built a network of interconnected factors that can help children heal from traumatic events, including:
• Reasonability, meaning “the ability to extract from one's rivals or persecutors a certain amount of human love and loving-kindness in the direst of situations.”
• The ability to acquire and use adult encouragement to encourage reciprocity in interactions with adults, so that' adults often believe they benefit something from the interaction.' This still' leads to an early understanding of one's power and ability.'
• The capacity to visualize an event as both “a phenomena that influence others.”
• A conviction that one has the right to survive.
• The potential to recall and evoke representations of people that are healthy and permanent.
• Maintain the reason for which to strive and the goal of establishing a stable moral order.
• The need to support others and their ability.
• A range of intimacy (such as the ability to laugh even in the most difficult circumstances).
• The availability of coping strategies that help children to restore and start rebuilding their lives provides a basis for revitalizing young lives.
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