The conflict that has affected Colombia for the last 50 years, has reinforced economic inequalities and widened the divide between urban and rural areas. It has also severely affected children’s access to quality education. There is now a three-year difference in learning levels between children in the same grade in urban and rural areas. To bridge this gap and ensure sustainable reintegration of children formerly associated with armed groups, considerable investments should be made to strengthen access to quality education in rural areas.
The peace agreement between the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP represent a historic opportunity for the 8.2 million people affected by the armed conflict. Implementation of the agreement will create a unique possibility for rural children and youth to finally overcome the crisis of forced displacement and be able to return to school.
Two out of ten children living in rural areas don't attend school. This number increases to 7 out of 10 for youth at the age of 17. Half of the children and youth who gain access to education do not get beyond primary school.
According to a recent study by NOREF Norwegian Centre for Conflict Resolution and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), the key factors that account for these numbers are forced displacement, violence, abruptions in the school year, poverty, distances between homes and schools and lack of teachers in some rural areas.
As stated by a representative from the Colombian Ministry of Education, the PISA knowledge tests, used to measure learning levels, showed significant differences between rural and urban children. In terms of learning levels, the difference between the urban and rural areas is equivalent to three years. In other words, when placing two children in the same grade, the gap in terms of educational quality would be tantamount to three fewer years of school in the rural areas