Educating for peace, the challenge Colombia must take on

Educating for peace, the challenge Colombia must take on

  • Posted: Sep 21, 2016 -
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The president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, announced on August 25 the definitive ceasefire with FARC after delivering the peace agreement to Congress and request the convening of the plebiscite to endorse the agreements on October 2nd. In this climate of optimism we want to rescue the reflection of Oscar Sanchez, National Coordinator of EDUCAPAZ, National Program of Education for Peace, which focuses on rural education and citizenship education and former Secretary of Education of Bogotá on the role, importance and the challenges of education in these new times.

“Although it is not too difficult to understand that the lack of opportunities for young people is the basis of the reproduction of violence, the” factory of warriors “is wide open. More than 400,000 guerrillas, paramilitaries and above all professional soldiers, have swelled a contingent of boys (and girls lesser extent) as cannon fodder that have waged war for the past 50 years. Their profile is very accurate and well studied: from 11 or 12 years, these peasant children defected from a rural school system with little access and less sense, and almost without exception have suffered abuse in their families. Looking for a job opportunity as children, and be enlisted fighters becomes their life project.

From the rank and file fighters State and illegal armed groups, virtually none finished secondary education and very few went from elementary school. In Colombia overall coverage of secondary education is not particularly high. But these warriors come exactly in the geographical areas where  it is. … ..Allá Teachers do not get to take their places, or when they arrive is mostly unprepared boys without vocation. Right there transport and school meals are almost nonexistent. Pedagogy is very precarious, and models that the Ministry of Education offers little consult the reality, especially from the sixth grade. Schools have no water or energy. The system of protection for children is very precarious, and psychosocial counseling does not exist in schools or in community social promotion. Nor is there greater opportunities or social and labor, sports or cultural background. What most it reaches these areas is public forces (police and army) force illegal armed groups with a political idea (guerrillas and paramilitaries), or force of criminal groups who need young people for their businesses drug trafficking, smuggling or illegal extraction natural resources.

And meanwhile, the urban country continues to focus social policies, including education and child protection policies. Although only some cities reduce the risks of some of the boys end up in a youth gang in which the same fate of rural warriors. …… A highly segregated urban education makes specific groups of very violent schools in marginal areas are the most reproof, desertion and violence occur. In addition schools are under siege by gangs that feed the drug lords.

It is a pity that Colombia has not so far taken seriously initial postulate of the letter of Unesco, which states that since wars begin in the minds of men, is there must be constructed bastions of peace.

The hope is in organized communities, where social grassroots leaders, teachers and restless young people show every day a firm commitment to change reality. These beings are not the majority, but if they are many and they are wonderful. …… Across the country, in the hands of those leaders, to do social-emotional, civic education and for reconciliation. And in the most remote rural areas, a model of strengthening schools with community participation and a pedagogy that respects the context and trust the children and their teachers and teachers.

If that priority was clear, they would be investing some two million additional pesos ($ 700) a year for each of those boys in rural areas of the 150 municipalities most affected by the armed conflict. And if it were clear, while we have understood that knowledge and character formation are the most effective means for institutional stability and economic performance, but above all, are the only possible way to give freedom to people and make us we value each other. And we have understood the prohibitive for everyone to maintain a society where good education is a privilege cost.

A couple of years ago a group of organizations, on which Fe y Alegría Colombia is part, decided to take the road together for the outstanding work described here a reality. Then it created the National Program of Education for Peace -EDUCAPAZ-, which focuses on rural education and citizenship education, and which have begun to partner with some communities and schools to make a demonstrative work and define a strategy impact on education policies in the country and its territories. ”


Oscar Sanchez has worked more than 25 years in social-emotional, civic and political education and improve educational institutions and systems. He currently coordinates the National Program of Education for Peace in Colombia -Educapaz-. He was Secretary of Education of Bogotá between 2012 and 2015. Coordinated the Democratic Governance UNDP in his country. He has been an activist, teacher, official, advisor, social entrepreneur and columnist.

This article was extracted from the International Federation Fe y Alegría Newsletter – July, 2016. You can read the whole article here (in Spanish).