Education crisis in Colombia

Back to school – but how?

After the pandemic, girls and boys from the community of Sincé in northern Colombia had to go back to school – if only getting there wasn’t so difficult. This is exactly where this SWISSAID project comes in: Using new educational methods, the emotional and psychosocial well-being of the insecure young people is to be strengthened again. Awareness-raising measures are designed to prevent violent situations and creative learning methods help young people to rediscover the joy of learning.

Facts

Country, region:
Sincé, Sucre region, Colombia
Duration:
April 2022 - April 2024
Beneficiaries:
2,638 pupils and 555 adults
Total project budget:
202'431 CHF

Aims

  • Returning the pupils from Sincé to school
  • Improve their learning skills and abilities
  • Strengthen their personal development and improve their well-being

The illiteracy rate is high in Colombia. It is a poor region, and injustice and inequality are the order of the day. Economic resources such as land are unequally distributed, women and young people are discriminated against and political participation is only possible to a limited extent for the general population.

The search for income to ensure the survival of the family characterizes people’s everyday lives. A modern education system and the well-being of children are not at the top of the list of priorities; the school infrastructure is in a correspondingly poor state. The pupils are the ones who suffer.

Sincé has 35,022 inhabitants and is located in the department of Sucre, one of the poorest in Colombia. Over 40 percent of people live in poverty, almost 10 percent in extreme poverty. The Human Development Index (HDI) in Sucre is also very low at 0.752. In addition to economic insecurity, people find it difficult to assert their rights; political co-determination often remains wishful thinking.

Drastic consequences for children and young people

The situation in the education sector has worsened since the Covid pandemic. The preventive closure of schools and the switch to virtual teaching have had a negative impact. Especially in a region where only a few households have an internet connection. This particularly affected people from families in hard-to-reach areas.

Teachers also faced difficulties: How can they teach virtually when the equipment is rudimentary and an internet connection is often not available? As a stopgap solution, pupils were sent home prepared study books that they had to work on.

The result: even more school dropouts and learning difficulties among young people. Pupils who were in transition from elementary school to secondary school during the pandemic were hit particularly hard. They fell between a chair and a bench. Due to the lockdowns and the economic and social stress situation, children and young people were also exposed to an increased risk of psychological and physical violence within the family.

Rediscover the joy of learning

This is where the SWISSAID project comes in: Workshops in mathematics, art, literature and self-confidence building are offered to seventh-grade students. The material is taught alternately in an exploratory or artistic way. Care is always taken to ensure that the content is related to their everyday environment.

The pupils also receive psychological support. Awareness campaigns also counteract violent situations. The workshops are offered by young people who are instructed and accompanied by experts with pedagogical and psychosocial training. This gives the young people important skills and enables them to make a contribution to the community, which promotes their social recognition and integration.

“It is a great stroke of luck that my son had the opportunity to take part in this project. It has enabled him to develop his talent in art and literature. He has lost his fear and it is now easier for him to work in a team.”

Proud mother Cindy Meléndez with her son.

The pedagogical idea behind this is to create an emotional and psychosocial well-being that makes it easier for the children to rediscover the joy of learning. Above all, the artistic approach seems to give the children stability and orientation.

“Art is an educational tool that enables children to examine and understand their environment. In a second step, they can pass on these experiences through artistic forms of expression.”

Vladimir Hernández Botina, local coordinator

In addition to alternative forms of teaching, the workshops also focus on the individuality of the children. For example, their own abilities and needs are taken into account and their individual learning speed is taken into account, as pupils have different levels of education due to the pandemic.

“Taking part in this project helped me to overcome my shyness. I really enjoyed researching the myths and legends of our community and presenting my findings in the form of a play.”

The student Wendy Araujo Pérez

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For a long-term improvement of the education system

The trained teachers focus on project-based and participatory learning. Which is encouraging: The chosen pedagogical approach in the workshops is already bearing fruit. The general commitment and interest of the pupils in their daily school lessons has increased.

However, more is needed to improve the education system in the long term. It is crucial that the methods developed in the workshops are incorporated into the general education system. Content from the workshops should be adopted by other schools in the future. This will ensure the continuity of the methodology and sustainably enhance the education system.

It is important that all pupils return to school, with a particular focus on marginalized children. Everyone should have the right to a good education. It is the cornerstone on the path out of poverty and leads to more self-determination. A school-leaving certificate means a secure income, improves food security and brings us one step closer to the vision of a world without hunger.