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School-based violence in Colombia: links to state-level armed conflict, educational effects and challenges

Working papers

Written by Caroline Harper

Countries experiencing or emerging from violent conflict often exhibit higher levels of violence in schools, because of the normalisation of violence in society and also because conflict increases the vulnerability of those already at risk of being targeted.

In exploring school-based violence in the context of armed conflict between the government and guerrilla organisations in Colombia, this case study finds that:

  • State-level armed conflict particularly affects Colombia’s most vulnerable children, mainly children living in rural areas.
  • Although inequality and exclusion are key contributing factors in school-based violence, political violence, quality of public education and insecurity also play a crucial role.
  • The problem of violence in schools is recognised by governments and violence prevention programmes engage both communities and schools. Many violence prevention programs for schools are focused on creating citizenship competencies and values for children
  • In programmes based on community engagement and building citizenship values, more systematisation and analysis is needed to understand how each factor actually works.
  • The limited nature of evaluation in the Colombian context means that it is difficult to establish whether or not preventive programmes are more cost effective.    There is still insufficient knowledge on effectiveness and how programmes can be part of more strategic long-term planning to stop violence in schools.
  • Civil society engagement in the development of proposals and follow-up of educational policies is crucial to the policy agenda on school-based violence.
Eliana Villar-Márquez with Caroline Harper