Poverty disallows former child soldiers to return to schools in South Sudan
On eve of World Day Against Child Labor former child soldiers say they are struggling to adjust to civilian life
JUBA, South Sudan
Mangok Malual, 19, was recruited in the army in 2015 and taken to remote areas to fight the rebel groups as the country was engulfed in a multi-sided civil war.
While he was allowed to leave the army three years ago, a hard and uncertain life stared in the face of former child soldier.
On eve of World Day Against Child Labor, which is being observed on Saturday, many former child soldiers like Malual told Anadolu Agency that they are still struggling to adjust to a normal civilian life.
Since the fighting broke out in 2013, the UNICEF has facilitated the release of more than 3,200 child soldiers from both government and opposition forces.
Malual after leaving the army is now working in a restaurant as a waiter to earn living to support his mother and young brothers.
“Nobody can give you anything now to eat unless you work. I am working in a restaurant where I am paid 25,000 South Sudanese pounds ($50) every month and that is what I have to support myself and my family, “he said.
Malual wants to return to school. But his earnings are not enough to allow him to save to pursue studies.
“Even if I go to school, who will take care of my family since they don’t have anybody to earn for them. I don’t know what to do,” he said.
Another former child soldier Jok Mading, 25, now a teacher said during his service in the army, he was denied food for several days. He had to move from place to place to fight the war.
“I was struggling after I left the army. I tried to get the job but did not get any till I was employed by one of the primary schools as a teacher. Now I am teaching children though the payment is not good. But I can sustain myself with my family, “he said.
Mading said that many child soldiers like him have been struggling to adjust to civil life. But there are many challenges.
There are an estimated 19,000 child soldiers in South Sudan, the highest in the world, according to the UN. As the country emerges from a five-year civil war that killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions, some worry the fighting could re-ignite if former child soldiers are not properly reintegrated into society.