“When we came to the army, we couldn’t work at the level of adults. We weren’t able to handle weapons. We should have been attending school. But we couldn’t find ways to study well. A scattering of studies some nights at its strongest. It was in brief moments. They wanted us to get up and work all the next day and endure, but that is not fitting for us. Really, students should be children, not soldiers.”
We were standing on a dirt road in rural Myanmar without a building in sight. The former child soldier talking with us is one of the lucky ones who has made it out of the local militia and is being provided a safe place to stay and an education by Project AK-47.
He is one of many children in this area caught between systemic violence and a lack of education, two factors which we believe go hand in hand. Many of these children are thrown into conflict largely due to a lack of education, and ongoing conflict proliferates the lack of education. Rescuing children from combat has little long-term impact without an education to provide more opportunities outside of combat. This is because combat is a career path complete with salary, opportunities for promotion, and power. For child soldiers, their education is not in reading or math, but in how to take lives. In this context, providing a good education can be one of the strongest ways to reduce violence and remove children from combat.
In some areas of the world—Myanmar included—the situation for children is not improving, but worsening. More children are being conscripted ensuring the prolonging of conflict, lack of education, and lack of development. That is why the time to act is now. Choosing to do nothing is a choice in itself, and one that will result in a worsening situation for child soldiers in Myanmar.
At the end of our interview, the former child soldier shared with us, “Right now is a troubled time for our land. We desire that you who care for us will continue to help us. In the future of our land, we should be helpful. For all our people, we should be useful, but we aren’t wise enough. We need education badly. We need to study our letters. Help us, that we aren’t carrying weapons of war but are people of worth.”
There are so many more children like this eager to study, waiting for the opportunity, and we are eager to assist them, but we can’t do this without you. You as a donor are vital to the support and success of these children. To support the education of a child, go to www.projectak47.com/donate to and sign up for a monthly donation of $28 or more.