As Colombia takes the final steps towards a lasting peace deal between the Government and the FARC rebels (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), trade unions are supporting a nation-wide campaign in favour of its adoption.
Peace seems finally within reach in Colombia, a country that has spent over five decades trapped in a civil war between the FARC rebels, the Government and paramilitary groups. With an agreement and its mechanisms ready to be approved by the national Congress, the only step that remains is its validation through a referendum to be held in early October.
Although the referendum is not legally binding, Parliament will want to back its decision on a national consensus, the issue at hand being one of major political relevance. The sustained armed conflict has divided and ravaged the country since the times of the Cold War, with the kidnapped and the dead to be counted by the thousands, amongst them many teachers.
Saying yes to peace
In order to encourage citizens to vote in favour of the agreement, a platform has been set up by various civil society organisations, including FECODE, Education International’s (EI) affiliate in the country. “Education will improve if we leave the war behind and sign the peace deal”, assured the president of FECODE, Luis Grubert. His union has lost more than 1000 members because of violence.
Once the agreement is signed, the union strives to involve all teachers in the active promotion of peace pedagogy through the programme “Schools as peace havens” ( escuelas como territorios de paz). “These are times for peace: we want a better country, we work hard so that Colombia becomes better, and we will not stop until the nation achieves peace. This will create better opportunities for all educators and also for all students, who are the guarantee for a better country”, Grubert explained.
EI: education key for peace
Education International supports the view contained in FECODE’s programme and has often stated that schools should be safe sanctuaries. Beyond that, “EI promotes the respect of human rights and democracy from and towards the classroom. Educators play a fundamental role in the resolution of today’s and tomorrow’s social conflicts”, Haldis Holst, EI deputy General Secretary stated at the last ILO Conference in Geneva.