Abubacar Sultan: Children’s Rights

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Abubacar Sultan

Abubacar Sultan, ©2000 Eddie Adams


  • 9-12


  • Children’s Rights

Additional Resources
Lesson Plan


  • Article 4: Freedom from Slavery
  • Article 24: Right to Rest and Leisure
  • Article 25: Right to Adequate Living Standard
  • Article 26: Right to Education


  • What are the causes and effects of forcing children to take part in combat?



After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe why children are targeted for combat.
  • Assess the effects of child soldiers
  • Identify effective measures for defending the rights of children using the story of Abubacar Sultan.
  • Become a defender of children’s rights by participating in a social justice advocacy project.


  • Public speaking
  • Describing
  • Drawing conclusions
  • Analyzing
  • Predicting
  • Reflecting
  • Developing empathy


  • Social Studies Standard 2: World History
    • Commencement KI 1 PI 1, 2; KI 2 PI 3; KI 3 PI 1; KI 4 PI 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Social Studies Standard 3: Geography
    • Commencement KI 1 PI 1, 3, 4, 6
  • Social Studies Standard 5: Civics, Citizenship and Government
    • Commencement KI 1 PI 1; KI 4 PI 5, 6
  • English Language Arts Standard 1: Language for Information and Understanding
    • Commencement Reading PI 1, 2, 3, 4, 6; Writing PI 1, 2, 4
  • English Language Arts Standard 3: Language for Critical Analysis and Evaluation
    • Commencement Reading PI 1, 3; Writing PI 1, 2
  • English Language Arts Standard 4: Language for Social Interaction
    • Commencement Reading PI 1, 2; Writing PI 1, 2

NYS P-12 COMMON CORE LEARNING STANDARDS in ELA/Literacy for History/Social Studies 6-12:

  • RH/SS.9-10.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
  • WH/SS.9-10.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • WH/SS.9-10.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • RH/SS.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • RH/SS.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • WH/SS.11-12.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • WH/SS.11-12.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


  • Child
  • Empathy
  • United Nations
  • War
  • Ratify
  • Convention
  • Defender


  • Change
  • Human rights
  • Justice
  • Empathy
  • Childhood rights
  • Social activism


  • Projection system for photos and PowerPoint
  • DVD player


Suggested placement of this lesson within Social Studies curriculum

  • Global History and Geography
  • A lesson on social justice advocacy in Participation in Government
  • An elective course involving civic involvement



The movie Blood Diamond has scenes of child soldiers. However, these scenes are graphically violent. It is highly recommended that you review the movie prior to showing it in class. Given the violent nature of the child soldiers scenes, it is advisable to have parental permission for students to view the movie.

Student Activities


  • Instruct students to take 30 seconds to picture their childhood in their minds. Encourage them to think of as many different activities as they can remember from the ages of 6-13. Ask students to write a list of eight to ten specific activities that they pictured.
  • Using images found on the Internet YouTube: “Life of a child soldier,” show the first two minutes. For each photo, ask the class if anyone has something resembling this on the list and solicit responses.
  • After showing the YouTube videos, show photos of child soldiers from the photo gallery at: http://www.ehl.icrc.org/index.php?option=com_joomgallery&Itemid=544
  • Discuss: what accounts for the differences in activities between the pictures of your childhood and the photos shown?


Now that students clearly see that not everyone’s childhood looks the same, discuss the following questions. Depending on your class/pacing, you may chose to discuss these using partners or the class as a whole.

  • What is a child?
  • At what age can a young person no longer be called a child?
  • At what age or event were you not a child anymore?
  • What are the basic needs of children?
  • What happens if these needs are not met?
  • What rights do you have as child?
  • Should there be a universal childhood? What would it look like?
  • Should there be a minimum age before someone is used in armed forces? What should it be?


  • Show students the map of where child soldiers exist. http://www.un.org/works/goingon/soldiers/childsoldiersmap.html
  • Ask students why children are specifically recruited into combat. Record student comments on the chalkboard or interactive whiteboard.
  • Ask students what the consequences are of children taking part in war for the child, for the family, and for society.


For background information on child soldiers see


  • Before showing the clip in which the abducted children train to be child soldiers, read some or all of the reflection prompts below. This will allow the students to more accurately reflect on what they see.
  • Show the clip from YouTube, “Life of a Child Soldier,” show the remaining minutes 3–7 (caution – the clip shows graphic violence) After watching the clip, have the students reflect, in writing, on one or more of the following:
    • Reflect on senses that child is experiencing [touch, smell, taste, hearing, sight]
    • What were your feelings as you watched these children?
    • Can you relate to any of his/her experiences/feelings?
    • What do you think happened to this child after the clip you saw?
  • Have a guided classroom discussion based on these prompts. Depending on time, this can be done as a class or with partners who then report out.


  • Ask students to brainstorm ways to stop recruitment of child soldiers. Record answers on the board or interactive whiteboard.
  • Distribute to the students the interview of Abubacar Sultan, a defender of children’s rights, found at http://www.speaktruth.org/
  • Instruct the students to read the interview individually.
  • Distribute copies of these focus points for students’ written responses.
    • Write at least three reactions to the interview
    • Highlight the steps Abubacar Sultan took to address the problem of children in combat
    • Select one sentence that struck you as powerful and explain why
  • Facilitate a classroom discussion on students’ findings, questions and reflections.


The example of Abubacar Sultan’s actions is the essence of this lesson. Teachers should stress the significance of the actions of one person in the face of injustice as a motivation for becoming a defender.

Become a Defender

Now that students see how the actions of one man helped ease the suffering of so many children, ask what they as individuals can do, using one of the following or an idea of their own.

  • Write a letter to your local, state and national representatives and/or to the editor of your local newspaper regarding the failure of the U.S. to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In your letter, request specific action on the issue of the universal rights of children. Please share any response you may receive. http://childrightscampaign.org/crcindex.php?sNav=index_snav.php&sDat=index_dat.php This can also be done online at http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/index.aspx?c=jhKPIXPCIoE&b=2590179&template=x.ascx&action=13282
  • Read the letter to government officials asking them to ratify the Child Soldiers Treaty. Go to: http://www.kintera.org/c.nlIWIgN2JwE/b.5763655/k.D2B0/Ratify_Child_Soldiers_Treaty/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx Complete the information required and click: send fax.
  • Organize a ‘Change for Change’ fundraiser to support a rehabilitation center for child soldiers. [Go to http://childsoldierrelief.org/rehabilitation-centers/ for opportunities] Collect change during lunch and after school. Be sure to promote the event with informational posters, display cases, video clips and/or school-wide announcements. Also be sure to thank the school population and publicize any feedback you get from the organization.
  • Participate in Human Rights Watch’s Red Hand Campaign. http://www.hrw.org/en/topic/children039s-rights/child-soldiers. Organize the school to take part in the Red Hand Campaign to promote awareness on child soldiers.
  • Create a Facebook group advocating efforts to end children being used in combat. Invite several people into the group and encourage them to get informed on the issue. Encourage them to invite others.
  • Create a multimedia presentation about child soldiers to show to your class and/or a community group (such as Rotary International). Be sure to include facts on the problem and highlight defenders such as Abubacar Sultan.
  • Hold a teach-in about child soldiers during lunch. Encourage participants to dress alike and have pamphlets with information about child soldiers. This may be combined with HRW’s Red Hand Campaign and watching the multimedia presentation created.


  • Find a photo of a child soldier and write a letter/journal/song/rap/poem from the perspective of that child.
  • Write a paper about today’s child soldiers. Pick a country/conflict and research: facts/statistics on the issue and ongoing efforts by individuals and/or groups defending the protection of children. Be sure to include your personal reflection on how investigating this issue has affected your thinking and action.
  • Create a PowerPoint presentation/poster on the theme/word: childhood. Your presentation can follow the model found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-10852277 or http://www.hsbc.com/1/2/newsroom/news/2005/hsbc-celebrates-different-points-of-view


The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights is sponsoring an annual contest honoring a student who submits the best advocacy activity based upon the lesson studied. A goal of the lesson is to instill into each student that one voice, one person can make monumental changes in the lives of many. Tell us how you “Became a Defender”!


  • A one-page summary of the advocacy activity
  • Digitized copies of materials that can be sent electronically
  • Photos of the activity (please include parental consent form)
  • A one-page summary of how the activity made a change in the lives of one person or many


  • A week long “virtual” internship at RFK Center
  • An opportunity to meet the defender through a SKYPE visit,
  • A visit from Kerry Kennedy or a defender to your school
  • A poster of a Speak Truth to Power Human Rights Defender
  • A donation of a signed copy of Speak Truth to Power for the school library

The application and instructions for entry can be downloaded here (link for materials)

The deadline for all applications is the third week in November.

The winning student and teacher will be notified by the last week of January.

Additional Resources

Child Soldier Relief
CSR is a non-profit organization that functions as a center for information, legislation and research to help end the use of child soldiers worldwide.

Amnesty International: Child Soldiers
Amnesty’s collection of information, containing background on child soldiers, stories from actual child soldiers and ideas on how this subject can be brought to the classroom.

Rwanda: former child soldier hugs mother at last
This site provides a reading on a reunited child soldier in Rwanda.

The Convention of the Rights of the Child
This convention is a universally agreed upon set of non-negotiable standards for the basic human rights of all children.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is one of the most important modern documents in creating an international standard of human rights.

Crimes of War 2.0
edited by Roy Gutman, David Rieff and Anthony Dworkin, W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 2007.
This book serves as a guide to all wartime atrocities, presented in a straightforward, manner by over 140 expert contributors. Key terms and legal issues are explained and augmented by 150 photographs.

Children at War
by P.W. Singer. University of California Press, Berkeley, 2006.
This book discusses the recruitment process of the modern child soldier and even goes further to examine how and why wars fought with child soldiers are considered beneficial to their political patrons. Based on interviews with child soldiers, international groups including the UN and others involved in the conflicts.

Girl Soldier
by Faith J.H. McDonnell and Grace Akallo. Chosen, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2007.

War Child: A Child Soldier’s Story
by Emmanuel Jal, Megan Lloyd Davies. St. Martin’s Press, 2009.
War Child is Emmanuel Jai’s personal story as one of the former “Lost Boys of Sudan,” and his eventual escape with the help of foreign aid workers.


The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights
This site has remarkable video clips on human rights issues.

Youth for Human Rights
This site provides excellent 30-second videos and additional information on many human rights issues

What’s Going On? Videos: Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone
Available at www.socialstudies.com/wgo

A Child’s Century of War
Available at: www.frif.com

Blood Diamond
A complete curriculum guide for Blood Diamond, outstanding lesson plans as well as additional resources.

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