One of the main challenges for Colombian families who are asylum seekers or refugees in Ecuador is succeeding in having their youth enter the Ecuadorian education system. In many instances this integration faces numerous hurdles, even though education is a universal right, guaranteed by the Ecuadorian constitution.
In order to facilitate this access to education, RET is implementing a “Community Leadership Programme” geared towards young people, but acting through their parents. The goal is to help refugee families learn about their rights and build their capacity to defend them, in particular when it comes to their right to education.
In its work with young people, RET has time and again observed that a holistic approach which involves all key actors of society will have better outcomes. In this view, the family unit is essential and parents all the more so.
Therefore, in this programme mothers and fathers are offered information about laws related to education, as well as training on how to correctly understand and use them. In a second phase, they are given the tools to become community leaders, in charge of accompanying other families in similar situations, so they may achieve having their children admitted in local schools as well.
“For us Colombians, the RET Community Leadership Programme is very important. Now we know our rights, we know that the right to education is a human right and that no one can violate that right.” (Rodrigo, father and community leader in Quito, Ecuador.)
The programme has different stages, beginning with a psychological profile review of potential participants, which seeks to identify those who favour dialogue over confrontation. Once they enter the Community Leadership Programme, a training process is developed through which different themes are addressed, such as: the right to education, being a refugee, human mobility, procedures and requirements for school integration, institutions to resort to, and how to approach the Ecuadorian Organic Intercultural Education law. Their work is consolidated by the organisation of community meetings where they share the knowledge acquired in the programme.
“People share this information with other refugees so they may also accomplish getting their children into schools or know what to do in case of discrimination. At RET we train district officials so that they are made aware of the rights of refugees, which has facilitated the service towards refugee families.” (Consuelo Ojeda, from the RET team in Quito, Ecuador.)
RET’s “Community Leadership Programme” is successfully building the foundations for a constructive movement based on dialogue and the recognition of young refugees’ right to education in Ecuador. Mothers and fathers have gained a detailed understanding of the rights that protect their adolescents and youth. Through this knowledge they are now becoming active participants in the integration process of displaced populations in the local Ecuadorian communities.