CoDev’s Canadian Teachers’ delegation to Colombia meets with Colombian Teachers’ Federation leaders in Bogota, November 2019 – (Photo Julia Macrae)
by Wendy Santizo
CoDev accompanied a Canadian teacher delegation to visit Colombia and learn from the “Schools as Territories of Peace” project FECODE is implementing across the country. Our visit coincided with the celebration of provincial pedagogical circles encounters, where teachers shared their experiences in bringing peace education to the classroom. Pedagogical circles are made up of teachers, school principals, parents and students to discuss and create alternative pedagogies that will result in promoting peace, dialogue, conflict resolution, historical memory and democratic participation in their communities.
The delegation split up and visited three provincial encounters in Montería, Córdoba; Cúcuta, Norte de Santander and Fusagasugá in Cundinamarca.
Three of the experiences presented that most caught my attention were the “7 Hats”, “The Memory of the River” and “My History”.
The first provides students with a tool they can use to analyze any conflict situation and decide how to react in a constructive way. There are seven different coloured hats, each representing a question or perspective of looking at the conflict. Once the student answers these questions, they are in a better position to talk about it and solve it in a peaceful way.
The second is a long-term school project, it was created to recover the historical memory of the local river. It begins with students researching the history of the river, its names, where it originates, what stories are linked to the river, fiction or real, when did the contamination of the river begin and why. Today the school has created a project to protect the river and plant hundreds of trees.
The third consists of students interviewing their grandparents or elders in the family and neighbourhoods and asking: What was school like before? What was the neighbourhood like? What is the story of their town? These stories and anecdotes are shared in the classroom and collective memories begin to be recovered, as well as stronger ties across generations.
The delegation also had the opportunity to visit several museums and galleries including the photographic exhibition “The Witness” by Jesus Abad Colorado in the National University of Colombia. The exhibition demonstrates how communities and schools have experienced the armed conflict and were affected by multiple armed actors.
Meetings were held with FECODE’s Executive Committee and representatives of the CUT (Colombian labour central) Executive to speak about working conditions in Colombia, the impact on workers of the entry of Colombia into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, as well as analysis around the national strike that was being prepared for November 21st.
Among the demands of the strike are: No more tax, wage and labour reforms without consultations; An end to the killings of social and environmental leaders; the right to healthcare for teachers and their families; Strengthening of the national teachers’ social security fund, and; Implementation of agreements previously signed with the national government, that include the implementation of a diploma program for teachers in peace education and declaring schools as Territories of Peace.
The teachers’ unions seek peace with social justice, reconciliation and truth. FECODE prepared a report with detailed cases of teachers, social leaders and unionists who were victims of systematic accusations, persecution, threats, forced disappearances and assassinations to be presented to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) as part of their commitment to the clarification of truth in Colombia.
FECODE’s “Schools as Territories of Peace” project is facilitated by CoDevelopment Canada with support from the BC Teachers’ Federation, the Ontario Secondary Teachers’ Federation, the Centrale des Syndicats du Quebec and the Surrey Teachers’ Association.