Child Soldiers - War, Society and Humanitarianism in Africa: Sources (HIH3208)

StaffDr Stacey Hynd - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesAt least 90 credits of History at Level 1 and/or Level 2.
Co-requisitesChild Soldiers: War, Society and Humanitarianism in Africa : Context
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Child soldiers are integral to warfare in Africa today, regarded as evidence of the criminalization and civilianization of contemporary conflict. This module provides a rigorous historical contextualization of children’s roles in African conflicts, their experiences and understandings of violence, and a historicized reading of current evidence to develop a new understanding of child combatants. It challenges existing theories by analyzing the long history of ‘child soldiers’ in Africa, from pre-colonial slave raiding, to the First and Second World Wars, to decolonization-era independence struggles, to civil wars and today’s ‘War against Terror’. It looks at how new ideas of human rights and humanitarian intervention have shaped local and global ideas of ‘child soldiers’, and how they should be treated both during and after conflict. The module will train students to critique a variety of sources, from child soldier memoirs to NGO reports, news reports, films and novels, from campaigns against child soldiering to the criminal trials of those accused of recruiting and utilizing child combatants. In analyzing key themes of recruitment, training, combat experiences and demobilization this module will investigate how child soldiers are alternately depicted as ‘victims’, ‘perpetrators’, or social actors with agency in their own lives. The module takes an inter-disciplinary perspective on the study of child soldiers, comparing historical, anthropological, legal, humanitarian and political depictions of the phenomenon. Research-enriched learning is central to the module, being based on the module tutor’s current research which provides the first historical analysis of child soldiering in Africa. The module aims to prepare students to engage with current debates and interventions on child soldiering in international development, law, and media fields.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Have a detailed knowledge of the different sources available for the study of child soldiering, together with a very close specialist knowledge of those sources which the students focus upon in their seminar presentations and written work.
  • 2. Analyse the complex diversity of the sources studied.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Analyse closely original sources and to assess their reliability as historical evidence. Ability to focus on and comprehend complex texts
  • 4. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner.
  • 5. Follow shifting constructions and experiences of ‘child soldiers’ across the period.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Independently and autonomously study and work within a group, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning
  • 7. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 8. Present complex arguments orally

Syllabus plan

Full syllabus will be agreed between module tutor and student group, but topics are likely to include:
• Introduction to Warfare in Africa 
• Histories of Childhood
• Histories of Human Rights and Humanitarianism 
• Children in Pre-Colonial and Colonial Armies 
• Child Soldiers in the First and Second World Wars 
• Children in Colonial Emergencies and Wars of Liberation 
• Child Spies in Post-Independence Civil Wars 
• Children in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle 
• ‘New Wars’ and ‘Child Soldiers’ in the 1990s
• Recruitment and Training 
• Combat Experience and Navigating Warscapes 
• ‘Bush Wives’ and Girl Soldiers 
• Demobilization and Reintegration 
• ‘Right to Agency’ v. ‘Right to Protection’: Child Soldiers and International Law
• Victims and/or Perpetrators? Children and Transitional Justice 
• Are You Not Entertained? Child Soldiers in the Global Media
Key case studies will include – Sierra Leone and Liberian Civil Wars, Joseph Kony’s LRA in Northern Uganda, civil war in Sudan and Darfur, the Rwandan Genocide, apartheid South Africa, Renamo in Mozambique, Nigeria-Biafran civil war, Mau Mau in Kenya and the Algerian War of Independence.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities44Seminars (22x2hr)
Guided independent study256Reading and preparation for seminars, coursework and presentations.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing through course1-7Verbal and written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Portfolio702 assignments totaling 4,000 words1-7Verbal and Written
Individual presentation3020-30 minutes1-8Verbal and Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PortfolioPortfolio1-7Referral/Deferral period
PresentationWritten transcript of 20 minute presentation.1-8

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 4,000 word portfolio of source work, as in the original assessment, but replaces the individual presentation with a written script that could be delivered in such a presentation and which is the equivalent of 20 minutes of speech.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Badjoko, Lucien & Clarens, Katia, J’étais enfant soldat (Paris: Plon, 2005).
Beah, Ishmael, A Long Way Gone: The True Story of a Child Soldier (London: Harper Perennial, 2008). 
Ferdi, Saïd, Un Enfant dans la guerre (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1981).
Graham, Ronald W. (ed.), There was a Soldier: The Life of Hama Kim M.M., Africana Marburgensia, 10 (1985).  
Jal, Emmanuel, Warchild: A Boy Soldier’s Story (London: Abacus: 2009).
Keitetsi, China, Child Soldier (London: Souvenir Press, 2004).
Kolk, Mario, Can you tell me why I went to war? A Story of a young King’s African Rifle, Reverend Father John E A Mandambwe (Zomba: Kachere Books, 2007). 
Machel, Graca, The Impact of War on Children: A Review of the progress since the 1996 United Nations report on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children (Hurst: London, 2001).
Mehari, Senait, Heart of Fire: From Child Soldier to Soul Singer (Profile Books: London, 2006[2004]).

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Web based and electronic resources: 
Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission,
Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 
South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 
Human Rights Watch,
Child Soldiers International,
The Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers’ Initiative,
United Nations Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict 
International Criminal Court, The Hague – The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo
The Trial of Charles Taylor,
International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda,

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Films – Blood Diamond, Warwitch, Johnny Mad Dog.
Novels - Ken Saro-wiwa, Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English (New York: Longman, 1994[1985]); A. Kourouma, Allah n’est pas oblige (2000); Uzodinma Iweala, Beasts of No Nation (London: John Murray, 2006); Chris Abani, Song for Night (New York: Akashic, 2007)

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

History, War, Children, Soldiers, Human Rights, Humanitarianism, Africa, Civil War