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C H A P T E R T W O The Wartime Template Priorities are imperatives. They may be determined by child care responsibilities . A female youth with children and little or no support, for example, will be forced to make decisions that incorporate the need to ensure that her children are nearby.They may entail the assumption of an appointed familial role. A male youth may be expected to migrate to a city to make money so that his siblings can attend school.They may take the form of cultural mandates . Youth of both genders may leave school and dedicate themselves to marriage preparations, working to save money to, perhaps, secure livestock or contribute capital to a hoped-for marriage union. Still another imperative may entail a felt need to break away from such mandates, such as via urban migration or joining a military outfit. In these cases and many more, actions are determined by what must be done in the eyes of a young person, as determined by his or her family, social group, culture, or circumstances. The contrast between such predetermined realities and valued preferences can be dramatic. Two commonly valued opportunities are education and training.Although young people may treasure a secondary school education or a job-training opportunity and perceive many respective benefits from each, they may not pursue either, even if opportunities arise (and they may not). Frequently, imperatives require them to look elsewhere and pursue other objectives, such as trying to meet daunting adulthood prerequisites. The distinction between priorities and values matters because, quite often, governments and agencies develop policies and programs for youth that emphasize what youth ought to do instead of what youth have to do. The distinction between “should” and “must” is no small matter. Institutional allegiances to sectors contain implicit assumptions about what makes sense and what priorities should be. Sectors, after all, are infused with spe- 2 8 C H A P T E R T W O cialized rationales and predetermined logic for focused action. Education, to name just one example,promises to boost prospects for advancement.As a statement about education’s exceptional utility on a World Bank Web site confidently and emphatically states,“Education has become more vital than ever before in determining how well people, their local communities, and their countries, prosper in today’s global economy.The world is undergoing changes that make it much more difficult to thrive without the skills and tools that a high quality education provides. Education will determine who has the keys to the treasures the world can furnish. This is particularly important for the poor, who have to rely on their working skills and labour as the main, if not the only, means of escaping poverty” (World Bank 2012a). The point is not to challenge the thesis in this passage—or, indeed, the utility of attaining a good education, avoiding hiv/aids infection, eating a nutritious diet,and so forth.It is to underscore that such determinations are made without input from the target group.Reaching and effectively assisting impoverished people,be they youth or children or adults,cannot be accomplished without setting aside abstract essentials for a bit, however laudable they may be, and learning about the everyday logistics and necessities that surviving and moving beyond poverty entail. Youth may value education just as much as the World Bank authors do. But priorities and realism may point them in entirely different directions, which they may very well have no choice but to follow.Accordingly,and most unfortunately,securing more education may prove irrelevant to a great many youth. Declarations about the vital importance of education, in other words, may provide many youth with little or no help. War quite often makes the contrast between imperatives and values even more dramatic.The purpose of this chapter is to shed light on how war affects the lives,trajectories,and bodies of youth.The advent of armed conflict can radically alter the dynamics of survival and conditions for advancement. Gaining an understanding of what war does to young people sets the stage for chapter 3, where specific forces that drive youth priorities and future options are discussed. Part 1 of this chapter thus focuses on some of the direct influences of war on African youth. I start by considering what life in a war zone is like. Then I shed light on youth experiences of African wars in two ways: first by examining some general themes that researchers have...


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