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%. 


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 and Misión 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.

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.

The Caribbean Coast of Colombia is characterised by high unemployment, low education levels and extreme poverty. By contrast, the area has become a tourist hotspot, but businesses tend to be run by foreigners or people from other parts of Colombia with a higher level of English, leaving local people trapped in a cycle of poverty.

This project aims to improve the quality of education in local schools with a focus on English language skills, as well as teaching young people vocational and entrepreneurial skills with an emphasis on eco-tourism and green jobs, so that locals can benefit from their biodiverse territory.

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.”

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