I’ve been at the school for 3 days now and the differences between the ways they are able to implement programs and add to the quality of education here as opposed to Cazucá is astonishing. This school is at a totally different level. They are working with a smaller and much calmer population. There is very little worry here about the threat of violence. The people I’ve encountered talk about the city of Quibdó as almost a safe haven. Displacement from the conflict in the surrounding department is very high due to a high incidence of violence and competition for control in the surrounding are by the armed groups. Forced recruitment into the groups in the surrounding area is also very high, and was the topic of a forum that I attended while there hosted among others by UNHCR, PLAN and IOM.
However, the trend did not seem to enter into the city space. Poverty is high, which always effects the involvement of the parents as they need to be working and can be more concerned with more basic necessities than education. The academic coordinator mentioned that parents can be away for days, weeks or even months at a time. This absence is obviously not good for the kids, but here, as opposed to Cazucá, there seems to be much more emphasis on education and its value. Attendance isn’t a problem, drop-out rates are low, the community is involved and the programs run smoothly. In Cazucá the kids are almost proud to have failed classes and for many the main motivator in coming to school is the free lunch provided by the Foundation.
A perfect example of this is the democracy workshop that I attended put on by the Foundation. About 60 teenagers showed up to participate in some activities and share ideas. About 10 minutes into it, just listening to responses revolving around the question, “what does democracy mean to you?” I was tearing up. These kids were the voices of a community that was empowering itself. You could feel it in the air, they were leaders, they were educated, they were going to get what was rightfully theirs; education, participation, fair treatment. Yes, these were voices that were coming from a marginalized community, but it was a marginalized community with a cause, a purpose, with hope and resources, with a common background that was enabling them to join together and fight back, with a strong desire to own and be a part of their community and to care for it to make it stronger and to see it grow; something that is distinctly lacking in Cazucá.