KEY NEGLECTED ISSUE

Exclusion from Education

Education is every child’s right. If children in Colombia are to break free from poverty, education is crucial. Not only does education give children opportunities to build independent and fulfilling lives, but is also a joy that should be experienced by every child.

We believe in equal opportunities in education access, and ensuring that all children have access to quality learning. We also believe that no child should be subjected to child labour.

The current situation in Colombia

Even though the Colombian constitution requires children aged five to fifteen to go to school, approximately 1.2 million Colombian children (11% of all school-age children) currently do not receive any formal education.

Although enrollment rates are often high, it can be difficult for the most at-risk children to remain in school. Indeed only about 88% of those who enrol in primary school stay there until the final primary grade.

Education in rural areas

Children in rural Colombia are far more likely to drop out of school early than students in urban settings. On average, rural children receive 5.5 years of education while children from towns and cities stay in school for 9.2 years. Consequently, illiteracy rates among children over 15 years are almost four times higher in the countryside – 12.5% compared to 3.3%. 

Mining

Another risk faced by children living in rural parts of Colombia is the exploitation of children in mining areas, where more than 5,000 children are working in hazardous conditions in legal and illegal mines. 

In recent years, illegal gold exports have surpassed the value of cocaine exports, becoming the country’s largest illicit export – up to 80% of Colombia’s gold exports and estimated to be produced illegally. In some cases, armed groups directly operate the mines, while in others, they enforce extortion fees and incite terror on communities where unregulated mining is taking place, forcing adults and children to work either in the mine itself or carrying out tasks such as carrying messages or supplies, panning for gold, or for sex. 

This has a severely detrimental effect on children’s education, leading many children to drop out of school entirely. Although the government regulates child labour in legal mining, the same regulations do not apply to illegal mining, which currently accounts for 85% of all mines in the country, meaning that the majority of child labour in mining goes unchallenged.

What is Children Change Colombia doing?

CCC works with local partners Acadesan in rural Chocó and Valle del Cauca, El Origen in La Guajira and Mision Gaia in Magdalena to help at-risk children to know and demand their rights, including their right to accessible, high-quality education. The projects involve the use of innovative educational technologies, vocational training and work on environmental issues.

ACADESAN (Chocó & Valle de Cauca)

Our partner ACADESAN works to prevent the use of child labour in illegal mining, deforestation activities and coca farming in the rural regions of Chocó & Valle del Cauca by tackling high student dropout rates and improving the quality of education.

They use fun, participative educational workshops to re-engage children in school, teaching them about their Afro-Colombian heritage and rights, and helping them develop abilities for self-care, communication, peaceful conflict resolution and caring for the environment.


They also provide training to help teachers improve their teaching skills and support the children to create a peaceful, collaborative school environment, known to improve student performance and attendance rates.

El Origen (La Guajira)

Our partner El Origen works to improve access to education in the most marginalised communities in La Guajira where poverty and school dropout rates are extremely high (only 29% finish secondary school).

This is due to a range of factors including: long commutes to school with poor transport;  limited equipment and learning resources; and large indigenous and refugee populations where their first language isn’t Spanish.

El Origen provides devices (tablets) and an offline application (O- lab app), which features fun, engaging and high-quality courses in basic subjects and STEAM (Science, Technology, Education, Arts and Math). Crucially, the courses are offered in local languages as well as Spanish.

Misión Gaia (Magdalena)

Misión gaia

CCC´s project with Misión Gaia is located in the rural area of Minca in Magdalena, it supports 225 students and 15 teachers in three rural schools.

The project provides teachers and school management with resources and training to support to adapt and re-plan the educational process, in order to improve the quality of education. They also provide extracurricular support to the students with tutoring in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses, as well as English lessons. The aim is to enhance overall school proficiency, as well as the children’s critical thinking and communication skills. The project also provides vocational training in areas related to sustainable tourism. In 2022 we are implementing the first pilot of this project.

Cristina’s story

Cristina attends our project with ACADESAN.

“Me and my friends dream of getting a better education. It’s beautiful where I live but there’s lots of things we don’t have – healthcare, good housing, education – and the armed conflict is causing us more and more problems.  I want to learn how to overcome the problems we face in our region and to make the most of the resources our land has to offer. For this we need better schools – otherwise children like me will keep joining armed groups or move away to the city – we’ll make our families sad and our local culture and traditions will be lost forever.”