Colombia

COLOMBIA - Children in Remote Colombian Community Welcome New School

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A group of 250 children from the indigenous Huitoto, Bora and Muinane populations in La Chorrera settlement in the heart of the Amazon jungle now have a new school built and equipped with help from IOM and the Colombian Ministry of Education.

"The remoteness of the area was a challenge," explains IOM Chief of Mission in Colombia José Angel Oropeza. "To get construction materials to La Chorrera, it is a 15 to 20-day journey by river."

In the past, the community often had to cancel classes because the structure used as a school was prone to flooding. The new school, which also has two boarding areas where boys and girls can stay if necessary, was built well away from flood areas.

The "Border Area Education" project, financed by the Ministry of Education and implemented by IOM, is designed to improve the physical infrastructure and equipment of schools in rural and border areas in eight departments in Colombia. It aims to provide quality education that preserves and strengthens the cultural identity of its students.

In the Nariño and Putumayo departments, where the project is currently underway, more than 10,000 students attending 39 schools have already benefited.

The project has also carried out an assessment of educational needs in the two departments, which included a census of 75,000 households to identify children not attending school and an assessment of 742 schools.

In Putumayo the census found that 12% of homes had no means of communication with the outside world - no telephone or radio. It also confirmed a dropout rate of 7.4% for children under 17. Although 72% of 15 and 16-year olds attend school, the number drops significantly to 43% for those aged 17 and above.

In Nariño, the families interviewed said the main reason for not sending their children to school was economic. While 85% of children aged 11-14 attend school, only 37% of 16 and 17 year olds do; and only 24% of the population has completed secondary education.

The majority of the schools identified for the project are close to the Colombian-Ecuador border, where an estimated 135,000 Colombians have crossed into Ecuador, fleeing conflict and violence perpetrated by illegal armed groups.

The Open Door School Strategy, created by IOM and financed by United States Agency for International Development (USAID), focuses on the educational needs of vulnerable and displaced populations.

For more information please contact Jorge Gallo at IOM Colombia. Tel: +57 1 622-7774; Email: jgallo@iom.int