By External Source
BOGOTÁ, Colombia, Mar 30 2023 (IPS-Partners)
Education Cannot Wait (ECW) Executive Director Yasmine Sherif announced today that ECW intends to continue to expand its investments in Colombia. ECW’s support to the current Multi-Year Resilience Programme exceeds US$12 million, and the Fund has allocated an additional US$12 million for the next three-year phase, which, once approved, will bring the overall investment in Colombia to over US$28 million.
The new Multi-Year Resilience Programme will be developed during the course of 2023 – in close consultation with partners and under the leadership of the Government of Colombia – and submitted to ECW’s Executive Committee for final approval in due course. The catalytic grant funding expands the Multi-Year Resilience Programme in support of the Government of Colombia’s efforts to respond to the interconnected crises of conflict, forced displacement and climate change, and still provide a quality education.
“The National Government seeks to coordinate efforts among various sectors to strengthen actions to guarantee protection and care of Venezuelan families, especially children. Our greatest challenge for the effective integration of this population is to guarantee health, education and food sovereignty for all children, adolescents, and young people, with an emphasis on those in vulnerable conditions,” said Aurora Vergara Figueroa, Minister of Education, Colombia.
The extended programme will advance Colombia’s support for children and adolescents from Venezuela, internally displaced children, and host, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities impacted by these ongoing crises. The investment closely aligns with the Government of Colombia’s strategy on inclusion and will strengthen the education system at the national level and in regions most affected by forced displacement. The programme will have a strong focus on girls’ education. An estimated US$46.4 million is required to fully fund the current multi-year resilience response in Colombia.
On a high-level mission to Colombia this week, ECW Executive Director Yasmine Sherif called on world leaders to scale up the global response to the education and learning crises in Colombia to leave no child behind and deliver on the targets outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals.
“We must act now to provide the girls and boys impacted by the interconnected crises of conflict, displacement, climate change, poverty and instability with the safety, hope and opportunity of a quality education. The Government of Colombia has taken remarkable measures in providing refugees and migrants from Venezuela with access to life-saving essential services like education. By supporting these efforts across the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, we are creating the foundation to build a more peaceful and more prosperous future not only for the people of Colombia, but also for the refugees and migrants from Venezuela above all,” said Yasmine Sherif, Executive Director of Education Cannot Wait, the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises.
The Venezuela regional crisis has triggered the second largest refugee crisis in the world today. Colombia is host to 2.5 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants in need of international protection. The country also has 5.6 million internally displaced people. Indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples, girls and children with disabilities are also often left behind.
Despite the efforts of the Government of Colombia to extend temporary protection status to Venezuelans in Colombia, children continue to miss out on their human right to a quality education. In 2021, the dropout rate for Colombian children was 3.62% (3.2% for girls and 4.2% for boys). The figure nearly doubles for Venezuelans to 6.4%, and reaches 17% for internally displaced children.
Even when children are able to attend school, the majority are falling behind. Recent analysis indicates that close to 70% of ten-year-olds cannot read or understand a simple text, up from 50% before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools across Colombia.
As of November 2022, over half a million Venezuelan children and adolescents have been enrolled in Colombia’s formal education system. ECW investments have reached 107,000 children in Colombia to date. ECW’s Multi-year Resilience Programme in Colombia is delivered by UNICEF and a Save the Children-led NGO consortium including the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), World Vision and Plan International.
“Education is the best engine for creating new life opportunities and personal growth. It allows rebuilding and strengthening the resilience of communities that live in violence and extreme poverty. All the actors around the education system have to act together and bring their best knowledge, their best professionals and, thanks to the investment of ECW, we are achieving great changes in the education of thousands of girls and boys in Colombia,” said Norwegian Refugee Council, Plan International, Save the Children, UNICEF and World Vision in a joint statement.
ECW investments in Colombia provide access to safe and protective formal and non-formal learning environments, mental health and psychosocial support services, specialized services to support the transition into the national education system for children at risk of being left behind, and a variety of actions to strengthen capacities of local and national education authorities in order to support education from early childhood education through secondary school.