Colombian conflict has devastating impact on education

Norwegian Refugee Council, April 18, 2018

About 45,000 students and 2,000 teachers were forced to suspend classes this week as a result of a dispute between armed groups. “When education and children are affected by conflict and associated with fear of violence, the damage to both societies and people is severe and long-lasting, said Christian Visnes, Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Colombia.

In Catatumbo region, northeastern Colombia, at least 80 educational institutions have had to temporarily suspend classes out of fear of violence. “Armed actors are obliged to prevent any attack that affects education, they must publicly state that attacks on educational institutions are prohibited and refrain from affecting students and teachers in areas where the armed conflict continues,” requested Christian Visnes.

According to the Colombian Ombudsman’s Office, the crossfire between non-state armed actors has had direct effects on civilians, causing forced displacements, threats, kidnappings and restrictions on mobility that limit access to basic goods and services, such as the right to health and education.

“Armed groups must comply with the obligations of international humanitarian law. The communities in these regions should feel safe, and armed actors must respect the lives of civilians. The de-escalation of conflict in Catatumbo cannot wait another day,” warned Visnes.

Educational authorities have already activated contingency plans in the region. It is necessary to ensure that protection is offered to educators, students and their families and that, when possible, they can return to their schools.

“The government, humanitarian organisations and donors, have a shared responsibility to ensure that schools are safe, and promote actions so that education continues during armed conflicts and forced displacement,” said Visnes.

NRC encourages the Colombian government to sign the Safe Schools Declaration, to ensure that schools are protected.