America unites for peace in Colombia as country prepares to vote
Teacher unions of the Americas are campaigning in favour of the ‘Yes’ vote ahead of a crucial referendum that will put an end to more than five decades of war in Colombia.
The peace treaty between the government of Colombia and FARC that was recently signed by President Santos and the armed group’s leadership will be subject to a national referendum on 2 October 2016.
In this crucial context, Education International (EI)’s Colombian affiliate FECODE, which is supporting the peace agreement, has launched a national campaign "FECODE dice SI a la Paz" for a ‘Yes’ vote on 2 October. The union is also advocating for a programme that declares schools in Colombia as "territories of peace", a crucial step to insuring lasting peace, democracy and the development of the country.
On 5 September FECODE members from all over the country assembled in Bogota for the campaign's launch. Education unions from throughout Latin America joined them to show their support for the peace treaty. Education International General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen also took part in the event. He commemorated the more than 1,000 teachers who lost their lives in the 50-year-old conflict.
"Once the agreement has been approved by the Colombian people, the teaching profession and the public school system will have to play a crucial role in bringing the agreement to life and in building a peaceful and democratic society", van Leeuwen said.
He underlined the importance of empowering teachers and strengthening the public school system. Especially in the rural areas of the country, the condition of the school system is so dire that more than 3,000 schools still have to operate without access to electricity, let alone new technologies.
Hugo Yaski, President of EI’s Latin American Region, announced that in the last week of September EI affiliates on the continent will mobilise the Colombian participants in their countries in support of the ‘Yes’ vote on 2 October. He reminded the participants of the role that the education unions of Latin America had played in helping many Colombian teachers escape certain death. “Our people need peace in order to build social justice, in order to build the distribution of wealth, in order for this rich continent to be also a fair one”, he underlined.
An EI delegation also met with Colombian President Santos on 5 September. Mr. Santos assured the leadership of FECODE and the EI representatives that his government will give top priority to investments in children and in improving accessibility and quality of public education.