Dubai Cares, part of Mohammed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, is working towards protecting and empowering thousands of vulnerable children caught in the midst of conflict in Colombia through a new AED 11 million ($2.994 million) program, titled ‘Protecting Conflict-Affected Children and Youth Through Education in Northeast Colombia’. 15,000 children and young people and 200 teachers will directly benefit from the three-year program that target vulnerable girls, boys, and youth affected by the armed conflict.
The program, launched by Dubai Cares in partnership with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), aims to address four major challenges: the increasing number of out-of-school children and youth, low transition rates from primary to secondary schools, highly-dispersed rural areas, and poor education quality. In addition, the program will engage out-of-school children and youth through non-formal education (through a bridging program and through Flexible Education Models) and will provide technical support to the Secretariat of Education and schools to ensure educational services for the out-of-school children and youth. The program also aims to strengthen and improve results in access to education, education quality, and education management in Northern Colombia.
The program will span over 10 municipalities: six in the Catatumbo Region in Norte de Santander department, and four in the Arauca department. Both departments have been riven by armed conflict for many years, due to their strategic position on the Venezuelan border and the presence of guerilla and paramilitary organizations, who have fought for control over illicit crops, weapons, contraband, and land. Much of the two departments’ population lives in poverty, and children and young people attending school are exposed to risks including explosive devices, recruitment into armed groups, targeted killings, crossfire and kidnapping.
“We at Dubai Cares are continuously researching and identifying new interventions, particularly in countries affected by conflict, disasters, and epidemics, where we can support by addressing gaps where local governments have limited resources or incapacity to provide services. This program, which falls under our Education in Emergencies strategy, intends to be a driver of lasting institutional, structural, and pedagogical change and improvement in the education framework of Norte de Santander and Arauca departments, focusing on enhancing educational quality and ensuring gender equality through workshops and awareness-raising activities, strategic planning, policy involvement, training, and the identification of critical gaps and how to address them. This holistic, multi-faceted approach, specifically designed for the environment in which it will be implemented, will directly address key educational issues in Northeast Colombia, break down obstacles to education, and bring new skills, opportunities, discoveries, and horizons within the reach of thousands of children and young people,” said Annina Mattsson, Programs Director at Dubai Cares.
“In rural areas, the educational system is unable to guarantee both quality education and access to and regular attendance in school. Children’s homes are often long distances from schools; there are few teachers; uniforms and educational materials are very expensive for poor families; and family farming requirements force many children to leave school to help with the harvest. Many never return. This program will bring hope to those who need it the most”, said Christian Vines, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Country Director.
The program also aims to strengthen education management in the region, as it will work with education officials to develop plans to address teacher deployment and training, identify critical and strategic education management needs, and provide gender-equality training to education officials.