Education International
Education International

Colombia: EI takes action to end the killing of teachers

published 14 April 2010 updated 14 April 2010

Education International is leading the way to develop new strategies to end the violence being inflicted upon teachers and members of our global federation.

Working in partnership with the Colombian Federation of Education Workers(FECODE), EI organized a training session for regional education unions and human rights activists in Bogotá between 7 and 8 April 2010.

The training included a workshop on “International Supervisory Mechanisms”, which gave guidance to participants on how to enforce legally binding human rights treaties and ILO conventions which can be used to press governments and to strengthen public support, for EI’s call that the human and trade union rights of teachers are protected, wherever they are systematically violated.

In the context of Colombia, UNESCO’s 2010 publication: Education Under Attack has reported assassinations, kidnappings and disappearances, as well as illegal detention, torture and threats on teachers.

Last figures from FECODE show that, between 2006 and 2010, more than 120 teachers have been murdered, with 10 of those since January 2010.

Most of the attacks are suspected to have been committed by paramilitary forces, who target teachers that are involved in basic political activism or trade unionism.

EI is proud to have supported FECODE in this capacity building exercise which allowed for an analysis of the effectiveness of the Colombian government’s current programme to protect teachers. The programme includes the creation of committees composed of representatives from FECODE, the Procuradoría – a civil society advocates’ group – and local education authorities. Between them they assess each reported case of violence against a teacher to assess whether the teacher requires protection status, or not. Only if protection status is awarded then the teacher, and their family, have the opportunity to be relocated to another part of the country, to be sent into exile or receive protection by bodyguards.

Anecdotal evidence that emerged from participants underlined the critical situation faced by teachers living in departments like Valle del Cauca, Antioquia, Cauca, Nariño, Amazonas, Cordoba and Caqueta, which are among the most afflicted by the killings.

In addition to the prevalence of insecurity, it was identified that 96% of murders are either not investigated or fail to be solved. This figure exemplifies the climate of impunity which allows serious human rights violations to continue in Colombia.

Participants at the EI–FECODE event were clear that a stronger commitment is required from the Colombian government to establish a democratic and inclusive society, with guarantee protections for human and trade unions rights.

They also called for the creation of a national human rights network in Colombia to allow for more efficient exchange of information and mobilisation of solidarity, as well as the development of an index to document actual figures of violence against teachers.

This training event was another vital opportunity for EI to facilitate networking and mutual co-operation between its global, national and local teacher organisations.