After 60 years of violent conflict, Colombia signed a peace deal with FARC in 2016. However, there are still marked differences between rural and urban areas that amplify the existing poverty and inequality issues of the country. Consequently, the process of building sustainable peace in Colombia has been undermined. It seems that we are missing something, and literacy could be the way to get back on track.
The impact of the Colombian conflict on children’s education
In 2018, the government reported that 41, 411 children and adolescents were victims of the war, being the rural children the most affected.
The armed conflict in Colombia has impacted not only the economy, public infrastructure, and social cohesion, but it also has impacted children’s education and development in different ways, including:
- School dropout: Students were displaced or recruited into armed groups or forced jobs to produce illegal drugs and illegal gold mining.
- Lack of teachers: Teachers were threatened, displaced, or killed during the armed conflict.
- Sexual and gender-based violence: Most victims are female – including an increasing number of girls between the ages of 10 and 14.
- Poor schools’ infrastructure:Attacks by non-state armed groups using landmines and bombs have damaged the physical infrastructure of schools especially in rural areas.
The rural and urban divide
Colombia has made some progress in improving education for rural students but there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure children and young people have equal opportunities regardless of their geographic location.
- Poverty rate: In 2020, the poverty rate increased to 42,5%, but the poverty rate in rural regions is considerably higher. For instance, in La Guajira, the rate equals 66,3% and in Choco, it is 64.6%. Unfortunately, families living in poverty have fewer books at home and limited resources to support their children’s education.1
- School enrolment rate: Gaps in enrolment also persist between urban and rural areas. According to the World Bank, the school enrolment rate for 3 to 5-year-olds range from 80% or less in rural areas to over 90% in urban areas. For secondary school attendance, there is a 14% gap.2
- Connectivity: Only 17% of the 2.4 million students in rural areas have access to the internet and computers. H.3
Investment in education: crucial for peace in Colombia
Low literacy rates and poor education affect health, welfare, gender equality, social cohesion, and work opportunities, which can lead to increased rates of poverty and violence. Literacy development commences from an early age.
Reading with children helps them to develop a solid literacy foundation, essential to excel in school and life. Unfortunately, many kids from disadvantaged backgrounds are not receiving the educational support they need, especially during school disruptions due to the Covid-19.
To close the gap between urban and rural areas and build sustainable peace in Colombia, we need to create an inclusive and equal education system. Since 2014, the World Literacy Foundation (WLF) is contributing to the solution. Through Aprende Leyendo, WLF has provided free books, literacy packs, and supportive reading groups to children living in poverty in Colombia.
Recently, the organization launched Dingo App, an innovative EdTech solution to connect the unconnected students in rural communities where internet service is limited, and digital devices are scarce. Aprende Leyendo is expanding their services to new communities in Colombia to ensure every child acquire literacy skills from an early age to become active and positive actors that contribute to the building of sustainable peace for all.