Colombia has achieved important progress in terms of alphabetisation and access to education, however the educational system faces violence and different situations of emergency. This puts many children, adolescents and youth at risk of being excluded from the educational system and greatly limits their opportunities. This is particularly true in rural zones where there is a high dropout rate and the presence of armed groups (such as the FARC, the ELN and the Bacrim) which recruit and promote illegal activities, all of which greatly limits the future of young people.
Every year over 50 schools are rendered non-operational and many others are affected by the heavy rains and other types of emergency situations affecting the country. Employees of the educational centres, teachers and the community have to be prepared to confront these threats and organize the centres to be resilient and continue to function through crises.
The threats are multiple, for example, on the 20 May, a student walking home from her school in the rural region of Buenos Aires (Cauca), died by stepping on a land mine, which also wounded 3 of her schoolmates. Tragedies like these are what RET in Colombia strives to prevent. To achieve this it is indispensible that the local authorities and educational centres have the capacity to avoid this violence affecting the most vulnerable young people.
In collaboration with the Colombian Ministry of Education, RET International is reaching the end of a training process of the regional authorities, which led to a stronger educational service.
The 94 Secretariats of Education of Colombia have received technical assistance and follow up support for the creation of contingency plans for emergencies and management processes, which strengthen the structures of the institutions and allow the proper identification of risks and assets.
Another important element of this capacity building process was the creation of local education networks, which facilitate the exchange of experiences and collaboration in the face of emergencies. Through theses networks it is the whole educational system, which is more resilient. It is not only capable of ensuring educational services during crises, but also offers safe environments for the population.
Also, in this joint project of RET and the Ministry of Education, the plans developed locally with the representatives of the educational field and 356 schools have led to the empowerment of local communities. This is because the continuity of the educational service during emergencies is ensured by harvesting local opportunities in the hands of the community.
The implementation of the project not only implied capacity building of local authorities and school employees, but also the development of public policies which guarantee the education of children, adolescents and youth affected by crisis.
The vision of RET International is to develop through education a holistic strategy to bridge the gaps and lead to a better quality of life within communities, especially for adolescents and youth.