International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers

While working in Chad some years back, you knew when there was a spike in the conflict in the North of the country, as you would suddenly notice the lack of street children in town. They had been taken to be used as child soldiers.

CRIN reminds us frequently about the continuing use of children in war, not just as victims but as forced perpetrators, manipulated due to their age.

International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers

The UN warned, during the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, that children are becoming increasingly vulnerable to recruitment and deployment by armed groups, as the world’s conflicts become more brutal, intense and widespread.

”Out of 59 parties to conflicts identified by the Secretary-General for grave violations against children, 57 are named because they are recruiting and using child[ren]”, said Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

Tens of thousands of boys and girls are associated with armed forces and armed groups in conflicts in over 20 countries around the world. Many have been victims of, witness to and forced participants in acts of unspeakable brutality.

In Afghanistan, despite progress to end the recruitment and use of children in national security forces, children continue to be recruited by parties to conflict such as the Haqqani Network and the Taliban. In the most extreme cases, children have been used as suicide bombers, to make weapons and transport explosives.

In the Central African Republic, boys and girls as young as eight years old were recruited and used by all parties to the conflict to take direct part in inter-ethnic and religious violence.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations documented new cases of recruitment of children by multiple armed groups operating in the eastern part of the country. The children, in some cases as young as 10, were recruited and used as combatants, or in support functions such as porters and cooks. Girls were reportedly used as sex slaves or were victims of other forms of sexual violence.

In Iraq and Syria, the advances by IS and the proliferation of armed groups have made children even more vulnerable to recruitment. Children as young as 12, are undergoing military training and have been used as informants, to patrol, to man checkpoints and to guard strategic locations. In some cases, they have been used as suicide bombers and to carry out executions.

About the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers
The International Day against the Use of Child was initiated in 2002 when the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict entered into force on February 12, 2002. This protocol was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in May 2000 and has been ratified by 159 states.

UNI17828510years south sudan

A child soldier of 10 years of age -South Sudan (UNICEF)

Government forces recruit children in South Sudan

Despite a recent peace deal between the warring factions in South Sudan that had fostered hope of a definitive end to the year-long conflict, attacks against civilians persist.


A child soldier of 9 years of age -South Sudan (UNICEF)

According to the UN, armed groups raided a school on Saturday and seized 89 children.

The abduction occurred near Malakal, where thousands of people have taken refuge.

The kidnappers conducted house-to-house searches, according to UNICEF.

Many countries are actively involved in conflict and we should not forget the other countries who produce the weapons and so are engaged by proxy. What words can we tell our children why so many countries maintain their wealth by peddling misery?


International Mother Language Day 2015

International Mother Language Day 2015


My mother spoke Welsh. My parents believed, at the time, that Welsh was a dying language and English was the only future for us -so we did not speak Welsh at home.

Now Welsh is flourishing -a Welsh TV channel, pop groups proud to sing in Welsh -it is certainly living. My despair is that I did not grow up bilngual, and that my neural networks were not enhanced at an  early age by learning two languages.

So I understand the importance of ‘Mother Language Day’.

I have been working in Tanzania, where 77% of 6 year old children in the 7 regions in which we work, do not speak Kiswahili at home yet join Standard 1 primary where everything is being taught in Kiswahili. Is it no surprise that when tested at standard 3 they underachieve in maths and Kiswahili compared those who speak Kiswahili at home?Teachers are not trained to deal with those children who do not speak the language of instruction at home. So ‘inclusion’ is a key word and is the theme of this year’s International Mother Language Day.




International Mother Language Day, observed since 1999 on 21 February, honours the world’s abundant cultural and linguistic diversity. The celebration draws attention to the significance of pluri-lingualism and the need for language preservation. For example, UNESCO’s Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger categorises more than 2000 languages along various levels of endangerment.

Photo: Zinat Rehana/ UNESCO EFA Report

This year’s special theme is inclusion in and through education: language counts. During celebrations for the International Mother Language Day at UNESCO, yesterday, attention focused on the role of mother language as a factor of inclusion in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

While most countries are bi- or multilingual, education is generally taught in the dominant or national language. Today, minorities repeatedly become marginalised and isolated because of linguistic barriers. These communities are socially, economically, and politically excluded, and if they are able to attend school, are likely to perform poorly on assessments and often eventually drop out. Not only does this impede children’s chances of succeeding but it exacerbates social inequality and reduces citizenship participation.

The EFA movement has long promoted bilingual education to ensure quality of education. The upcoming 2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report, which takes a comprehensive look at the progress countries have made towards achieving the six EFA goals, will address the significant role that maternal languages play in improving the quality of education and diminishing illiteracy among children, youth and adults. Many of the problems in these areas stem from large communities being discouraged from participating in educational programmes because their spoken tongues are disregarded or considered inferior. To address this issue, governments are implementing effective policies to preserve and protect dialects, as well as to ensure that every citizen have access to education in their native language. As a matter of fact, there is a global trend of recognising minority languages as part of a country’s cultural make-up and even giving them official statuses can considerably change people’s experiences and attitudes in education.

To combat adult illiteracy, language recognition was a key strategy. According to a 2010 census, Mexico’s indigenous languages were spoken by about 6.6 million people, which accounted for 6.5% of the population. In 2000, the government launched a programme, Modelo Educación para la Vida y el Trabajo, with an initiative to incorporate representatives of minority language groups in educational initiatives. The government’s efforts to identify the importance of the range of languages spoken in Mexico and their quotidian practice led to usage of 45 languages in learning and teaching literacy. This method reduced the level of illiteracy in Mexico from 4.7 % in 2006 to 3.5% by 2015.

At the school level, language often interacts with culture and poverty, increasing the risk of children being left behind. Among poor rural grade 6 students in Guatemala who speak a minority (usually indigenous) language at home, only 47% reach the minimum achievement level in mathematics, but 88% of rich urban students speaking Spanish reach that level (Altinok, 2013b). Disadvantage associated with language and poverty continues into secondary school. New analysis by the EFA Report shows that in Turkey, 15-year-olds speaking a non-Turkish language, predominantly Kurdish, were among the lowest performers in the PISA 2012 assessment: around 50% of poor non-Turkish speakers achieved minimum learning benchmarks in reading, against the national average of 80%.

Since dialects are important to society because they enhance diversity, conserve traditions and amplify countries’ rich cultural backgrounds and it is imperative to offer opportunities for the youngest. For example, the ‘language nest model’ early childhood program in New Zealand allows Maori children to retain their customs by using their ancestral language in interaction with the elders in their community.

UNESCO states that “appropriate language education is fundamental to enable learners to benefit from quality education, learn thorough life, and have access to information”. During the celebration of the international mother language day, UNESCO reaffirmed the crucial necessity of mother tongue instruction to enhance global citizenship, a key target for the post-2015 agenda that aims to encourage every child, teenager and adult to act locally and globally for a sustainable, peaceful and inclusive society.


From Cultural Survival

an example of suggested actions you can take

Celebrate the power of dreams and meet the nearly twenty year-old Wopanaak Language Reclamation Project, which is “bringing language home” to the Wampanoag Nation of southeastern Massachusetts after many generations passed without fluent speakers.  Order copies of the film for personal, institutional, or activist use at Makepeace Productions, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting WLRP.
Be inclusive – respect the diversity of languages.

Education and Equity – still trying!

We hear many stories about the lack of investment in education -particularly for the early years, but we should also consider how the present investment is being made -does everyone get a fair share?

INEE has brought our attention to two new publications:

The Investment Case for Education and Equity

UNICEF has launched a publication, The Investment Case for Education and Equity and is the first in a larger series of investment cases to be published in 2015. The report highlights the causes of the education crisis today and focuses on how insufficient funding and inequitable use of existing resources contributes to this crisis.The Investment Case for Education and Equity calls on governments and donors to invest more and invest better: more resources need to be invested more equitably and effectively so that all children, especially the most vulnerable, can benefit from education.  It also calls for a greater role for the private sector and other non-traditional donors in mobilizing funding and resources for education.
And what if you are not in school? Who is investing in those millions of children and young people who are not accessing  education?
Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All
UNICEF, UNESCO Institute for Statistics
The persistent challenges we face globally are outlined in Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All, released recently by the Out-of-School Children Initiative, a partnership between UNICEF and UNESCO. About 63 million adolescents aged 12 to 15 are denied their right to an education. Globally, 1 in 5 adolescents are not in school compared to 1 in 11 primary school-age children. So adolescents are twice as likely to be out of school as their younger counterparts. The report also shows that as children get older, the risk that they will never start school or will drop out increases.

Children particularly affected are the most marginalized in the world. They are children who live in conflict-affected regions, work to help support their families, or face discrimination based on ethnicity, gender and disability. Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All advocates for new policy approaches that will enable the 121 million children and adolescents that are not in school to access quality education.