Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The View from Here - Colombia - Born in Bloodshed but Living in Hope: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The View from Here - Colombia - Born in Bloodshed but Living in Hope: News

Article excerpt

In northern Colombia, both the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado and the unique education system it has developed have their roots in tragedy. The Peace Community was founded in 1997, when farmers and rural workers displaced by armed conflict in Colombia declared the abandoned town of San Jose a neutral zone where all arms were prohibited.

But the Colombian government and the military accused the community of sympathising with the left-wing guerrillas also present in the region. In February 2005 paramilitaries working with the army massacred eight community members. Among them were three children, aged 11, 6 and 1.

Following the massacre, the Peace Community's state school teachers abandoned the region and the Ministry of Education turned down requests for replacements. "The government's idea was to bring an end to the community, to make the children leave if they wanted an education," said Arley Tuberquia, the education coordinator in one of the Peace Community's 11 villages.

But now, despite ongoing threats from armed groups in the area, new schools have been established and are thriving. The community has achieved this thanks to volunteer teachers who viewed educating children in such hostile surroundings as a great opportunity.

"We began to realise that we are the owners of our education," Mr Tuberquia said. Community representatives, teachers, parents and children from all the villages met to discuss a new "autonomous and alternative" education system; in 2007, the "University of Resistance" was born.

The new system was implemented in schools in 10 of the villages. …

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