25 Colombian youth have enrolled in Ecuadorean schools following threats against teachers by illegal armed groups in southwestern Colombia.
Students from the Cumbal municipality in the border department of Nariño have been forced to move to an Ecuadorean high school after six teachers at Colombia’s Mayker Municipal Educational Institution fled the school in fear of their lives.
Although it is only a 20-minute commute, this transfer represents a much larger problem within the Colombian education system. An average of 30 teachers are killed and hundreds more threatened in Colombia every year. A UN report released last month found neoparamilitary actions were causing students to be displaced on a massive scale — a pattern particularly pronounced in Medellin.
Rosalba Oviedo, president of the Nariño Teachers’ Union (Simana), said that “It is the duty of the State and, in this case, the Department of Education, to resolve as quickly as possible the situation of teachers in the municipality of Cumbal, but also to guarantee life to all teachers who are at risk and provide education to children.”
Teachers are often seen as community leaders, which makes them a target for armed groups. At least 14 teachers in Nariño have asked to be relocated in recent months due to threats of violence.
Tens of thousands of Colombians have fled to Ecuador during the armed conflict, though their situation is often only marginally improved. They often face severe prejudice and poverty in Ecuador, where 98% of the refugee population is Colombian.