IMPROVING QUALITY OF EDUCATION IN AREAS WITH ARMED CONFLICT: Canadian cooperation in Colombia


COLOMBIA is an upper middle-income country with a strong economy and abundant natural resources. But it is also emerging from fifty years of armed conflict between the government, guerrilla movements and criminal gangs. In this conflict, isolated rural communities have suffered the most from violence. Many lack access to public services like roads, health and education. One of these isolated areas is Colombia’s Pacific Coast, home to Afro-Colombians and indigenous groups. They have lived here for centuries, far removed from the cities. In the coastal areas of two of Colombia`s departments, Nariño and Cauca, there are few roads and transportation happens by canoe or boat though a network of rivers in the coastal mangroves. Here education services are poor. Schools are inaccessible to many households who live upriver or are cut off by the presence of illegal armed groups. In the existing schools education quality is low and there is little training available for teachers who want to improve. School curricula is not adapted to the culture and the realities of Afro-Colombian or indigenous students. The result? High failure in high school and high dropout rates. School does not motivate young people nor give them what they need to succeed in life. To help address these challenges Canada is supporting the “Vive la Educación” project. It`s implemented by Save the Children Canada and the Norwegian Refugee Council and it aims to improve education access and quality for these communities. Through household surveys, the project identifies the out-of-school population and their reasons for non-attendance. It then helps them enrol in regular school or in a flexible education program that allows them to complete their studies. This flexibility is important for students who are already single parents or seasonal workers. The project helps every school develop a School Improvement Plan. The plan has input from community members and it’s grounded in their local context. This helps improve school quality and relevance. The project trains school principals and local Education officials in leadership and administration, curriculum development, and community relations. This helps improve Education Management. “Vive la Educación” has shown that even in conflict situations schools can survive and thrive. Through “Vive la Educación” Canada’s development cooperation program is helping Colombia build an education system that offers access and quality and this will help bring peace and prosperity to Colombia`s Pacific Coast.

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