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By JRS Latin America and the Caribbean
May 9th, 2017

Bogota, 8 May 2017 – For the commemoration of Global Action Week for Education, the JRS in Latin America and the Caribbean shares its stance on the importance of the right to education for refugees and displaced persons in the countries in which it is present, as well as on the obstacles encountered in enjoying that right.

Campana EducacionAs a declaration, the JRS-LAC understands that education is an essential human right, a device for social transformation and inclusion that is closely related to human development, and that it is a public asset that should be guaranteed by States. We understand education as a process that takes place for the duration of a person’s life, linking the development of cognitive and socio-emotional skills. In this way, it becomes an enabling right by providing the tools and knowledge that allow for the exercise of other essential rights.

Education is not something abstract. On the contrary, it becomes material thanks to the educational community (teachers, school managers, students, and family), and also thanks to the infrastructure, the curricula, and the political decisions that regulate its operation. Thinking about education allows us to understand its various dimensions as part of a whole: access, permanence, quality, and accreditation or certification. 

However, in the context of Latin America, we have found limitations to its effective enjoyment, particularly affecting those in a situation of forced migration. An example of this is the fact that the delay by the States of Venezuela and Ecuador to acknowledge refugees and the irregularity of their lives results in difficulties related to educational access, continuation, and certification. In Colombia on the other hand, even though education is offered, in some parts of the country going to school poses a risk to the integrity of Children, Adolescents, and Youth – hereinafter NNAJs- due to the dynamics related to the armed conflict, and also because of the illegal activities carried out there, making it very unsafe ground for NNAJs.

While policies promoting the universalization of access have given positive results in the past few years, these are not enough, since abandonment levels have remained constant, and have even increased in some cases, especially in the rural and marginalized areas of these countries. Therefore, in order to guarantee access and continuity, quality education focused on human dignification must be offered. Although there is no authoritative definition of quality, we think that addressing it would allow us to focus our actions on various aspects that are central to it, such as:

  • The need to have trained, motivated teachers with sufficient tools to carry out their work in the areas of pedagogy and play.
  • The support of NNAJs and their families in their quest for comprehensive development. 
  • The implementation of connected evaluations that ensure the wellbeing of the educational community and access to this right (for example, supplementary nutrition programs, psychosocial care, among others.)
  • The relevance of the content, the skills training, and the effective learning results, which are properly evaluated.
  • Having an adequate and suitable infrastructure, both at school and for permitting access to it without risks.
  • Strengthening the school-family-society-State link, promoting co-responsibility for its defense, promotion, and adequate development.
  • Having sufficient financing to guarantee this.

We highlight that, in the middle of the Colombian armed conflict and the situation of violence experienced in the border areas between Ecuador and Venezuela, education becomes a guarantee of protection for NNAJs, and therefore, States must be urged to establish strategies to guarantee it during humanitarian emergencies. Likewise, education must be of a quality to facilitate the transition to local integration, taking into consideration the needs of the refugees and displaced persons, as well as the different conditions in rural and urban areas. Only with quality education will it be possible to achieve the development of communities.

In order for education to respond to the reality of forced migration and the violent dynamics of the region, we must insist on a curricular mesh which will stimulate the development of basic and other skills that promote human dignity, a respect for differences, and interculturality. In addition, we consider that it must be oriented and focused on the transformation of conflicts, reconciliation, and the promotion of peace. 

We seek to promote a type of education where a school is understood on a symbolic level to be a space where human dignity can be protected, and where peaceful coexistence is promoted, as well as a safe place for NNAJs that contributes to the reduction of risk factors linked to the conflict and the violent dynamics that motivate abandonment. We urge combatants to comply with International Humanitarian Law, especially in the post-agreement framework in Colombia.

We believe that teachers are the central axis of improvement in the quality of education; teachers who are better prepared and sensitive to the reality of forced migration and refuge are essential to achieving true transformation. Without denying that a commitment between the family, society, and the State must exist in the educational process of NNAJs, education must be seen as a necessity to redefine its importance and social value.

Finally, education as a responsibility of the State must be promoted through public policies having sufficient financing to be implemented and to ensure continuity. Education must be a tool that contributes to the building of fair, democratic, and inclusive societies. The reality in countries where the JRS is present highlights the need to raise awareness and to influence public officers responsible for the execution of educative policies. Broad, guaranteeing legal frameworks are not enough if the local implementation of the law is not carried out properly because of erroneous practices.

We advocate for the access to quality education of refugees and displaced persons, and for them to be able to continue their education and achieve certification!

JRS Jesuit Refugee Service, Latin America and the Caribbean
+57 1 3681466

Source: JRS International