Kidnapped education: Colombia

After nearly sixty decades of internal armed conflict, Colombia’s children and education system remain firmly under siege. Caught up in cross fire, young students are pulled out of classrooms and thrown into battlefields or drug crops. Guerillas, paramilitaries, and the Colombian army utilize school buildings as posts for their own interests. Teachers have been drastically killed over these years of conflict and students live with the constant threat of landmines: Colombia remains one of the most affected countries by explosive devices.

Colombia is one of the few nations that explicitly limits or prohibits the use of schools and other education facilities by their armed forces. Nonetheless, there continued to be reports of security forces using schools as military bases, shelters, weapons caches, and outposts, with their use lasting weeks, months, and even years. Such military use not only seriously disrupts students’ learning; it also provokes attacks from opposing forces.

Colombia is still one of the most dangerous countries to be a teacher: They routinely disappear, killed, threatened or extortionate. Particularly in rural conflict areas, they have often become a target for illegal armed groups active in the country. Thousands of teachers have received a stark ultimatum from the armed actors: They target them because they often are the most educated people in rural communities, just because they have become symbolic targets as community leaders or just because they represent a challenge to the rebels and paramilitaries alike. According to Colombian Teachers Syndicates, more than 1.500 teachers have been killed and thousands have been forced to leave their homes during the last 25 years.

Situation for students has been improved after the Havana peace talks firmly started a couple of years ago, however, the nightmare is far for ending in rural areas marked by an endemic violence: the abuse of educational spaces for military propaganda, the murder and threats of teachers, the recruitment activities and forced displacement have resulted in tenacious violence among Education.