Significant efforts by Colombia ensure that nearly 200,000 Venezuelan children and youth have access to the educational system
The report highlights that the educational response for this emergency requires greater financial and technical support, as well as for national initiatives and development plans that strengthen the educational system and provide opportunities for displaced persons and host communities.
The Regional Office for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC/UNESCO Santiago) released a national report focused on Colombia addressing the main challenges and transformative actions in the educational response to the mixed migration flow of 1,400,000 Venezuelans in that country.
The report "The right to education under pressure: Main challenges and transformative actions in the educational response to the mixed migratory flow of the Venezuelan population in Colombia" (in Spanish, “El derecho a la educación bajo presión: Principales desafíos y acciones transformadoras en la respuesta educativa al flujo migratorio mixto de población venezolana en Colombia”) was prepared in collaboration with the Norwegian Council for Refugees (NRC) and analyzes the multiple needs, problems and obstacles that boys and girls in Venezuela face to realize their full right to education. The report is the product of an exhaustive documentary analysis from secondary sources on educational responses directed at the Venezuelan population in Colombia and has written aiming to contribute to evidence-based decision-making.
The document details the methodology used for its elaboration and develops an educational evaluation framework for contexts of mixed mass displacement. This framework allows to systematize the state of the educational response, including different fundamental dimensions for guaranteeing the right to education in contexts of emergency or prolonged crisis, among which are access, adaptability of the response, and accountability. Addressing these dimensions allows establishing the population's education and learning needs, considering the analysis of secondary sources, questionnaires addressed to the national teams of different institutions, and participatory workshops with officials from the Ministry of National Education, experts from the United Nations and civil society.
The report highlights, among other data, that the literacy rate of the population of the most recent migratory flow is lower than that of previous flows (91.4% between 2012 and 2015; 86% between 2016 and 2017) andrelatively lower than that of the Colombian population (92%). Despite the fact that schooling levels are lower than those of previous flows, it is a very young population, for whom access to education and lifelong learning opportunities would allow them to develop their potential and contribute to the host communities.
Regarding access to the regular system, the analysis shows that Colombia's efforts have been gigantic. From the 460,000 children under 18 with school needs, there are already over 198,000 enrolled in the educational system, most of in primary and secondary education (79%). However, around 260,000 Venezuelan children and youth in Colombia are still out of school, which affects their right to education. This violation goes even further, as their exclusion from the educational system also excludes these children and youth out of important social benefits, including school feeding services. Although most of the educational offer does not have direct costs for students, the report warns that many indirect costs (transportation, clothing, food and materials) would be inhibiting their access to education.
The document also points out the deficiencies that prevent the educational system from facing the growing enrollment of students and that require urgent attention. These include insufficient infrastructure and educational resources available, overcrowding in schools, and lack of access to water and sanitation services in some regions. In relation to educational staff, there are administrative difficulties to expand the teaching staff, there is a lack of personnel in regional municipalities to meet the requirements of the arriving population, and there are limitations for Venezuelan teachers to exercise their profession in Colombia.
Regarding progress, the report highlights the development and implementation of information systems that allow strengthening monitoring and the educational response to the migrant population. In this sense, the transformations to the Integrated Registration System (SIMAT) and the addition of the country of origin variable in the administrative data registry have been very important, as they allow monitoring the populations being served and not being served by the educational system.
In terms of the recognition of degrees, titles and knowledge, there have been identified obstacles preventing the recognition of educational trajectories due to lack of documentation. In this sense, it was possible to observe cases of children and adolescents who attend school only as listeners and, therefore, would not be able to certify the grades they completed in Colombia not to continuing their educational trajectories after high school. Likewise, surveys analyzed in the report show that, in Bogotá, Barranquilla, Medellín, Cúcuta and Cali, 89% of Venezuelan people who do not practice their profession (educational or otherwise) indicate that it is because they do not have permits to do so. One of the obstacles identified was the absence of frameworks or mechanisms for the recognition, validation and accreditation of non-formal and informal learning.
The COVID-19 health emergency sheds a light on the situation of special vulnerability in which people in situations of mobility find themselves. National actions are challenged to consider the structural and specific gaps presented in the previous section, which prevent this priority group from accessing the services and benefits involved in the educational response to the pandemic.
The closure of educational institutions to stop the spread of COVID-19 has impacted all the educational systems in the region and caused the emergence of multiple government educational responses. These initiatives seek to ensure the quality of education and the continuity of the school calendars through a range of resources and methodologies. UNESCO points out that these responses are implemented in highly challenging contexts, especially considering the situation of human mobility that Latin America has experienced in recent years and the actions that countries have had to take to guarantee the right to education of migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and returnees.
In this context, having this type of information characterizing the educational needs of vulnerable and marginalized groups is essential to adequately respond to the current emergency situation.
This national report, the first in a series that will cover Peru, Chile and Ecuador, is a contribution by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to the efforts of the countries of the region to guarantee the right to education of people on the move.