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5 Years: Encouraging Education and Peace in Colombia

Annette Quinn, Head of Operations & Impact

Generations of children have been affected by the conflict in Colombia. Caught between these internal struggles are children, whose civil liberties to education are negatively impacted. And if we look to the future, we can only imagine the adverse domino effect of an uneducated population on Colombia’s future growth and development….once peace reigns. But, peace remains questionable!

The recent conflict audit trail suggests that Peace Agreements reached on 24 August, 2016 have not been realised. The facts speak for themselves:

Photo taken in Cartagena, Bolivar

·  more than 50% of Colombia’s rural population still live with conflict and violence;

·  over five (5) million people require humanitarian assistance; and

·  Colombia is the second largest displaced population in the world, after Syria. 

This month the Breteau Foundation acknowledges five (5) years of education support to schools, teachers and children in Colombia and we wish to mark this by reviewing our work over these past years. We began supporting schools in Tunja (Boyacá), Granada, Fuente de Oro and Puerto Santander (Meta) and Cartagena (Bolivar) reaching 1,400 students in the first year of our operations.  Today we support over 6,400 students working in 25 schools in Colombia’s most disadvantaged areas. When I assessed our work over the years with Yhira Ibarguen, our Colombian Country Manager, we concurred that the following were our most significant impacts.

Giving hope to rural schools

Photo taken in Vereda Cormál, Boyacá

If we agree that children are born victims of their geography, we can easily agree that it is the children in rural Colombia that have the least educational opportunities. Three in 10 do not attend school and seven in 10 do not complete their schooling. 

At the Breteau Foundation, we have not allowed rural challenges to stop our work, especially where we feel it is most needed, and our work in Meta, southeast of Bogota is a case example. When we first partnered with schools in Meta, there were no other charities alongside us and educational support to school was non-existent.  Building trust with schools to reach children has been a key feat in pioneering into schools set in rural areas where conflict rules.

Clustering to create communities

The Breteau Foundation has been a conduit to support clusters amongst schools and teachers. This was at first seen as a more efficient way for us to provide our training and support to teachers but the outcomes and impacts have been far greater. The Clusters we established with our partner schools have produced a dynamic within the school, a sense of community between schools, as well as professional development self-support amongst teachers with EdTech interest and a greater sense of ownership in our programme.

Supplying educational resources

The schools we work with are particularly limited by lack of resources. Wherever we have ventured, a request for more resources has been the cry of teachers. We continue to supply and search for new resources and content including through the use of online and offline technology and apps in order extend the breadth and depth of the curriculum, engage and motivate children’s learning and provide content diversity to better support children with needs.

There are of course many, many more impacts that give shape to our programme in Colombia operated by Yhira and our colleague Jessica DeVilla. Far too many to list. But as a final thought on five years in Colombia, we hope that the children we have reached have gained from our educational support and that we have made some small, but positive contributions to peace in the communities where we work.

Photo taken in Vereda Cormál, Boyacá
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