2016—2017 · Vol. 44 No. 4



Colombia peace deal ratified

Now schools can become "zones of peace"

Canadians interested in global affairs have followed the recent events in Colombia, hoping that armed conflict would soon come to an end. According to the South American news outlet Telesur, there is reason for hope:

“The Colombian House of Representatives unanimously ratified the historic peace deal between the government and the FARC rebel group early in December after the Senate did the same, triggering the implementation of the agreement that brings an end to over half a century of civil war in the South American country. Both the Senate and lower house votes easily passed the vote thresholds needed to approve the deal, and the margin bestows greater legitimacy on the deal, analysts have argued. The ratification allows the peace deal to enter in force and triggers a 180-period—monitored by the United Nations—for FARC rebels to move to transition camps and begin the process of laying down their arms and preparing to reintegrate into Colombian society.”

The approval comes less than a week after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, also known as Timochenko, signed the new deal in Bogota. A previous peace agreement was narrowly defeated by less than half a percentage point in a national plebiscite on October 2. Within weeks of the plebiscite, the government of Colombia and FARC leaders revised the original plan, making 50 changes while keeping foundational cornerstones of the deal intact. The peace agreement, negotiated over the past four years in Havana, Cuba, brings to an end the longest and bloodiest civil war in Latin America, which has left some seven million people displaced, more than 260,000 dead, at least 79,000 disappeared and 30,000 kidnapped since 1958.

OSSTF/FEESO has provided solidarity to the educators of Colombia for many years. We have sent human rights observer missions, have funded education-related projects in schools and, recently, have approved a three year pedagogical circle project aimed at rebuilding the education system following the conclusion of a bitter armed conflict that has claimed many educators’ lives.

According to one of our teacher union contacts, schools have suffered long enough.

He states:

“Public School has also been the victim because it is besieged by the neoliberal educational policy and because it has suffered the horrors of war. From January 1 1985 up to today, (July 2016), there have been 1076 teachers murdered, 1,800 displaced, 50 missing, 70 in exile and 6,000 threatened (Committee of Human Rights, Colombian Federation of Education workers—FECODE).

“Many minefields in school environments; control of education by the armed actors; prioritization of the war budget over the budget of education; schools in the cross fire surrounded by trenches, places of meeting convened by the military, the paramilitaries and the guerrillas. Desertion of students by the displacement of communities. The school receives in its classrooms a student population displaced and victimized by war, and also the children of one or the other armed side.

“Now, we hope for peace and a better school system.”

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