A Colombian children’s rights group reported on Monday that recent Ministry of Education figures show that 86% of children from ethnic minority groups have no access to adequate education.
The dooming report claims that people from Indigenous groups, afro-Colombians and gypsies are not being provided with education centers for their children which can teach them in a culturally appropriate manner.
NGO PANDI reported that 10,674,609 Colombians were enrolled in public education in 2012. Only 1.9% (212,953) attended an ethno-educative center, in which education was molded to be culturally appropriate to their needs.
According to the Ministry of Culture, some 5.8 million people belong to ethnic minority groups in Colombia. Of the total population of 47 million, 10.6% are Afro-Colombian, 3.4% Indians and 0.01% Gypsies.
Effects on the young people and communities
For Angela Rosales, director of SOS Children, this poses a massive concern as areas which have lower levels of primary education have much higher levels of socioeconomic based problems, such as teenage pregnancy, high levels of infant mortality, malnutrition, child labor and cases of abuse of youngsters.
Rosales said “the gradual deterioration of the principles and ancestral knowledge of these groups within the current educational models is putting young people in a kind of cultural limbo”
Child welfare groups PANDI and SOS children argue that a basic primary education for ethnic minority children is essential as it can teach them basic life skills, but continue to teach the traditions and history of their cultures, which they can in turn teach to future generations.
According the Rosales, the government is failing to provide a relevant curriculum which takes into account gender roles and traditional approaches to life in the diverse ethnic minority communities. Rosales argues that to ensure a better education the state and civil societies need to come together to achieve the goals, organise budgets and policies and monitor their progress as a means of ensuring a basic education and basic human rights for these children and teenagers.
PANDI’s report noted that the Colombian constitution commits the government to protect the ethnic diversity of its people through education.
Aside from a constitutional obligation to protecting and preserving indigenous cultures, Colombia is also failing to meet the U.N Millennium Development goals for 2015 which were agreed to combat world poverty.
The UN goals for 2015 state than 100 percent of children should have access to at least primary level education. According to the UN, worldwide primary education attendance has reached 90 %, which still leaves 58 million young people with no access to basic education worldwide.
In its report, PANDI said that according to 2011 Ministry of Education data, 30.1% of indigenous, 11.2 % of Afro-Colombians and 6.2 % of Roma has not received any formal education.
Part of a greater problem
Representatives from child rights groups blame the problem on the long and dangerous journeys that many of these excluded children would need to take to attend an education center. Colombia has been embroiled in a conflict which has lasted for more than 50 years now, and many live in the poorest areas of the country, where there is still a lot of activity by paramilitary, guerrilla and criminal groups.
Aside from socio-economic problems related to the levels of poverty endured by these ethnic minority groups, they often fall victim to displacement and violence as a result of the ongoing conflict.
A study into the well-being of the children of Colombia’s ethnic minority groups found that 70% of the country’s indigenous children are chronically malnourished and one in four children from ethnic minorities dies before the age of six due to malnutrition and lack of access to healthcare.
Colombia’s Constitutional Court has identified 34 of the country’s 102 indigenous groups as being at risk of extinction. The Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) has identified a further 32, totaling 66 groups are at risk of dying out in the foreseeable future.