Artist turns home into training ground for children.

Artist turns home into training ground for children.


Mr. Martin Otto, Rasta Smart with children after training (photo by Moses Gum):

By Moses Gum Degur

It is more than four years now since South Sudan conflict started. Hundreds of children died and thousands of others were separated from their families due to the violence.

In search for peace and children’s transformation, a South Sudanese artist has turned his residence into a training school for young children affected by war.

Martin Otto commonly known by his stage name as Rasta Smart, stepped up efforts to train young children affected by the conflict in South Sudan.

The artist said to make war less damaging to children, there is need for special consideration to children who are in war zones,those who live in refugee camps and internally displaced people, especially those who are unaccompanied by adults.

“Special considerations need to be given for family get-together, service delivery, building children learning centers and the provision of facilities for education and play as well as special help for child-headed families,”Mr. Otto said.

“I am now training conflict affected children from three to seven years. Most of those children’s parents are displaced and some are not having ability to send them to school. As a result I thought engaging these children in various activities would help make them grow as good people,” he added.

Mr. Otto explained that the purpose of his initiative was to ensure that the conflict affected children would get relieved from thinking of war memories and avoid using languages of “gun and killing” and resort to language of peace.

“We are trying to help children that are traumatized as a result of conflict. Many of these kids are facing numerous challenges with some having lost parents; others witnessed displacement and even killings. So they have to be trained on how to overcome these critical conditions they are passing through,” Mr. Otto said.

Mr. Otto developed the idea after observing that some young people had begun to glorify war and that children used language about war weapons without being able to understand the meaning of the words.

“Because of the ongoing conflict in the country, many children experienced,witnessed, and watched documentary films on war. They resort practicing these things to themselves and begin to fight others,” he said.  “In order to avoid this trauma, children need to be train and stop from watching military films,” Otto added.

He said with children who had experienced war during their childhood, the only way to break their silence was to engage them in trauma healing and transform them through other activities as means of disassociating them from war trauma.

Mr. Otto said most children in South Sudan fall into permanent unconsciousness when their families are killed, displaced and some lost jobs which made many of them to go to the streets and start engaging in crimes.

The artist said his main mission was to keep the children busy by training them how to sing, dance, debate and make drama among other activities.

Mr. Otto said he started the training with his two children last year but now he trains about twenty of children from the neighborhood.

He said about nine of the adult children are now in primary school. “All these children don’t have proper parental care, so I have to support them and provide their scholastic materials,” he noted.

He promised to extend similar trainings to other states in the future if he can secure funds.

Mr. Otto called on the people of South Sudan to stop war and work for peace and give children a chance to develop.

He said he uses his little earnings from his Boda-Bodabusiness to sponsor the childrenin primary schools.

Orchard Raymond from Wakisa Entertainment Crew is another artist whose musical campaign continued to help children in dire situations.

He said most children in Africa are traumatized by persistent conflicts; as a result, their lives need to be transformed through training.

Mr. Raymond called on African leaders to put aside their differences and prioritize human life adding that if the “cruel act of unforgiveness” will result to what he dubbed “generation disappearance” in Africa.


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