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The Story Behind the Numbers: A Look at Education in Somalia

Photo credit: Ibrahim Yusuf

When exploring UNESCO’s World Inequality Database on Education in Somalia the data is shocking and frankly, unbelievable. The report shows that the number of urban children out-of-school is 100% (World Inequality Database, 2020). However, school is still taking place in certain urban locations such as the one shown above. Therefore, the data is not an accurate representation of students in school, however, the numbers are accurate in a sense because access to education in Somalia is incredibly difficult and unstable. Can these numbers actually be as appalling as the report shows. The short answer is yes! And here’s why:

1-The History of Education in Somalia. 

When exploring the educational reports of a country, it is crucial to first look at the history of education. In Somalia the dictator, Siad Barre, was in control of the country throughout the 1970s and 1980s. During this time he developed a literacy campaign which took educated people from the capital of Mogadishu and sent them out into the bush of the country (Hoben, 1988). This literacy campaign aimed to increase the literacy rate of the Somali people with the new Somali alphabet; Somalia did not have a written alphabet until the 1970s. However, during this time the presence of the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, rose and at the start of the country’s civil war most education stopped. By the time the civil war had begun, Somalia had only reached around 60% literacy and were still outside the third quartile of literacy levels. The history of education in the country has without a doubt influenced where the country is today in terms of literacy and education. In addition to the history of education it is also important to consider access to education. 

2-Access to Education 

Education in and of itself is a very sensitive and complicated topic because it is multifaceted in terms of gender, age and wealth. Additionally, the Somali culture is very nomadic and it is not uncommon for many families to move from place to place. As a result, many people live around the country and not in one formal location. Because of this nomadic lifestyle, often education is unstable and makes it much more difficult to build schools that are sustainable. Gender also plays a great role in who has access to education in Somalia. Oftentimes, and especially in Al-Shabaab controlled areas, women are not permitted to attend school. Lastly, in the past wealth was the most important aspect in regards to education and only the wealthy families in Mogadishu had access to education. Due to the complexity of the nomadic lifestyle, gender, and wealth, access to education is one of the greatest concerns in the country. Along with the history and access of education in Somalia, humanitarian aid also plays an important role. 

3- Lack of Humanitarian Aid 

Somalia is an inhabitable environment for the Somali people. The country’s weak infrastructure, absence of health care, lack of education and insufficient water resources along with the continuous abuse of human rights creates a country without hope. Furthermore, international organizations, such as the UN, foreign governments and NGOs are unable to work effectively in the areas of Central and Southern Somalia. Many organizations that do have operations on the ground have to operate through access networks, especially in the south where the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab, is more present. The UN will not allow workers to work directly in Southern Somalia and instead requires them to work remotely. Al-Shabaab targets humanitarian aid workers and makes it difficult for aid organizations to distribute without having to pay a bribe to Al-Shabaab (Kiley, 2018). The fact of the matter is that even the little UN logo on the t-shirts of humanitarian aid workers makes them an incredibly high risk target, especially in the south where Al-Shabaab still controls large swaths of land. “Marginalization, forced evictions, discrimination against different vulnerable groups and minorities, pervasive gender-based violence (GBV), and insecurity and armed violence continue to exacerbate vulnerabilities and to drive needs” (UNDP, 2020). Due to this, Somalis lack basic services and facilities resulting in a major increase of Somali refugees around the world and there is no doubt that the aforementioned facts are reflected in the data shown for Somalia on the World Inequality Database. 


Decades-long civil war and conflict, a failed state, weak government, lack of social support, poverty, harsh climate and poor security continue to make Somalia one of the poorest and most tragic countries in the world (Gettleman, 2009). The need for humanitarian aid is crucial in Somalia, but seems to be somewhat impossible. Warlords, militias, and terrorist groups such as Al-Shabaab continue to operate in large parts of the country, resulting in both physical and psychological damage to civilians (UNDP in Somalia, 2020). “Somalia is a state governed only by anarchy. A graveyard of foreign-policy failures, it has known just six months of peace in the past two decades. Now, as the country’s endless chaos threatens to engulf an entire region, the world again simply watches it burn” (Gettleman, 2009).


About Somalia. UNDP in Somalia, 2020. https://www.so.undp.org/content/somalia/en/home/countryinfo/

Gettleman, J. (2009) The Most Dangerous Place in the World. Foreign Policy. https://foreignpolicy.com/2009/09/30/the-most-dangerous-place-in-the-world/

Hoben, S. (1988). Literacy campaigns in Ethiopia and Somalia: A comparison. Northeast African Studies, 111-125.

Kiley, S. (2018). Funding al-Shabaab: how aid money ends up in terrorists’ hands. https://edition.cnn.com/2018/02/12/africa/somalia-al-shabaab-foreign-aid-intl/ index.html?no-st=1571451092

Somalia. (2001, May 27). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved March 8, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somalia#Education 

World Inequality Database on Education in Somalia, 2020. https://www.education-inequalities.org/countries/somalia#?dimension=all&group=all&year=latest 

Photo credit: Ibrahim Yusuf

The Cuban Literacy Campaign: Free Education, but at What Cost?

Do the positive effects of Fidel Castro’s authoritarian policies in Cuba make interventions like the Cuban Literacy Campaign worthy of praise?

As a nation with a complex sociopolitical history, Cuba makes a fascinating case for addressing this question.


Participants in the Cuban Literacy Campaign march in December 1961.
Image Credit: Liborio Noval

Today, education is a fundamental cornerstone of Cuban society. With access to education for all and one of the highest literacy rates in the world, this island nation has already met many of the targets within Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4). Though some are quick to point to policies implemented under the late Fidel Castro as the catalysts for such impressive stats, the reality is not so straightforward. 

Recently, one of Castro’s more famous interventions, the Cuban Literacy Campaign, was brought into the spotlight when U.S. Senator, Bernie Sanders, received backlash for suggesting the intervention yielded positive results.

“It’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”

While Sanders said he was opposed to the authoritarian nature of Castro’s regime in Cuba, he also asserted that the fact of the matter is that hundreds of thousands of Cubans benefitted from this literacy program.

“I think teaching people to read and write is a good thing,” Sanders stated.

 The Cuban Literacy Campaign (La Campaña Nacional de Alfabetización) was an integral part of achieving success in two main pillars of Castro’s communist agenda: education and literacy. In September of 1960, less than a year after taking control of the government, Castro announced his plan to eradicate illiteracy in Cuba.

Image Credit: Yutaka Nagata

“In the coming year, our people intend to fight the great  battle of illiteracy, with the ambitious goal of teaching every single inhabitant of the country to read and write in one year.”

— Fidel Castro, UN Summit, September 1960

What was the Cuban Literacy Campaign?

Fidel Castro was particularly focused on creating a movement that would reach historically marginalized communities including Afro-Cubans, women, and rural workers.

Over the course of nine months in 1961, hundreds of new schools were constructed (primarily in rural communities) and over 250,000 volunteer teachers (often teenagers, and often female) had mobilized in an effort to eradicate illiteracy. 

A 1984 UNESCO report found that just prior to the beginning of the Literacy Campaign, 23.6% of the Cuban population above age 10 was illiterate. By the end of the campaign, which had reached more than 700,000 people, that percentage had fallen to 3.9%. (Greenberg, 2020.)  

Context is Key

“Everyone can read, but there is nothing to read.” — Cuban saying

While this particular intervention was deemed a success by many, others argue that the approach Castro took was problematic. Yes, literacy rates in this island nation did increase significantly as a result of the intervention, but many push back on the notion that the literacy campaign was actually done to empower Cuban people, as Castro once implied, but rather to control them.

A few caveats to take into account when considering this intervention:

  • Castro’s regime controlled the content being taught. For this reason, access to education was also seen as a form of indoctrination. In fact, since 1959,  schools in Cuba have been state-run and require a pro-government curriculum. All of the materials used during the infamous Literacy Campaign were, or contained some elements of, propaganda meant to promote Castro’s communist agenda. Similarly, other media sources including libraries and bookstores are still required to carry literature and media that have been approved by the government. 
Pages from manuals given to instructors and students in Cuba as part of Fidel Castro's literacy campaign in 1961.
Pages from manuals given to instructors and students in Cuba as part of Fidel Castro’s literacy campaign. COURTESY OF THE CUBAN HERITAGE COLLECTION, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI LIBRARIES, CORAL GABLES, FLORIDA
  • Before the Cuban Literacy Campaign, literacy rates in 1959 Cuba were listed at 79%, already among the top five countries in Latin America. This is not to say that the impact of the campaign was insignificant, rather that it’s important to understand where Cuba stood before this intervention.

Are Literacy Campaigns Valuable?

Often in the global development arena interventions with the best intentions go awry.  While literacy campaigns are undeniably effective in certain ways, their execution should be looked at critically. Cuba’s literacy campaign was an impressive feat for numerous reasons, but it is also an example of how those with power can use education to oppress others.

While we know that increased literacy leads to a better quality of life, what are the actual benefits of literacy campaigns if people are not able to read what they want or write what they think? As Clifford Thies states, “The truth is, literacy is fast being eradicated in the world, with or without literacy campaigns.” (Thies, 2020).

Author, Ulrike Hanemann, also states that “While campaigns have created fresh momentum to mobilize for literacy, most large-scale campaigns have set overly ambitious targets and underestimated the complexity of the task.”

Bottom Line: While literacy campaigns might be effective at quickly teaching basic reading and writing skills, they are not sustainable and can be problematic in situations where one party is controlling the content being disseminated. For this reason, it is important to look critically at who designed the curriculum and what ulterior motives might be at play. Through the lens of SDG 4.6, Cuba has reached UNESCO’s goal; however, to say that 99.8% of all Cubans are utilizing the tool of literacy to live a better life would likely be inaccurate.


Roser, M., & Ortiz-Ospina, E. (2016, August 13). Literacy. https://ourworldindata.org/literacy?fbclid=IwAR1jWWGPn3VY3tKpqKu9Gg1gW5yYfGQiuTsvxufmwf46P74_cT90aIFC1ts

Gaouette, N., & Oppmann, P. (2020, February 25). What the Cuban literacy program Bernie Sanders praised was actually about. Retrieved March 4, 2020, from https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/25/politics/sanders-cuba-literacy/index.html

Kessler, G. (2016, December 1). Justin Trudeau’s claim that Castro made ‘significant improvements’ to Cuban health care and education. Retrieved March 6, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/12/01/justin-trudeaus-claim-that-castro-made-significant-improvements-to-cuban-health-care-and-education/

Bey, D. A. (2016, September 8). 10 Things to know about revolutionary Cuba’s Literacy Program. Retrieved from https://www.telesurenglish.net/analysis/10-Things-to-Know-About-Revolutionary-Cubas-Literacy-Program-20160908-0007.html

Goal 4:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. (n.d.). https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg4

Thies, C. (2020, March 2). The Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961. Retrieved March 7, 2020, from https://www.heartland.org/news-opinion/news/the-cuban-literacy-campaign-of-1961

UNESCO eAtlas of Literacy. (n.d.). https://tellmaps.com/uis/literacy/#!/tellmap/-601865091

Bernie Sanders’ Cuba comments draw criticism from Democrat Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell – CNN Video. (2020, February 25). Retrieved April 1, 2n.d., from https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2020/02/25/bernie-sanders-cuba-castro-comments-lawmaker-reaction-ac360-cooper-vpx.cnn

Hanemann, U. (2015). The Evolution and impact of literacy campaigns and programmes, 2000-2014. Retrieved April 1, 2020, from shorturl.at/ERWYZ

Education Financing in Germany: Quality, Access, and Compromise.

Source: Alamy

Germany often receives praise for having one of the best education systems in Europe and the world. There are many factors that make the German education system a model. Among these are free higher education, one of the most effective Vocational Education Tracks (VET), and a well-rounded basic education.

One of the reasons for the success of this system is the country’s public expenditure on education. UNESCO’s  Global Education Monitoring Report shows that the country spends 4.8% of its GDP and 10% of its government expenditure on education, which meets UNESCO’s 2030 framework for governments spending on education and Sustainable development Goal 4 of quality education for all. Paired with effective education programs, this ample financing leads to high quality, and accessible to all education. When looking at primary and secondary education, there are various policies that ensure that both access and quality aspects of education remain elevated. The first 9 years of basic education, for instance, are compulsory from the age of 6. Throughout this period, a system known as Tracking ensures that students are placed in schools that are matched to their academic abilities, which ensures that every student’s needs are being addressed. 

Another element that reflects the German system’s high level of access and quality is its unique VET system. With a dual system that allows the students to learn in the classroom and on the job, the German VET system has shown to be one of the best internationally. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Germany ranks second in youth employment, a score that is often attributed to the country’s VET system.

The Price of free higher education

Though effective in many aspects, the German education system does not have it all figured out. This is mostly reflected in the country’s higher education system, where the issue of government expenditure on education comes back into question. Known to provide free higher education for both citizens and international students, the country has had difficulty in maintaining this almost too-good-to-be-true free higher-ed policy while ensuring that funding and quality are also maintained. As the university enrollment rate increases from the relatively low numbers, public universities have been experiencing larger student to teacher ratios, less learning resources for students, and others. Quartz explains that whereas the average student expense per student is $27,924, Germany’s declined to $16,895. In view of this issue, Germany’s seemingly sufficient government expenditure on education is no longer fitting the kind of standard Germany’s higher education system has maintained over the years. This issue puts in perspective that oftentimes, funding is what is at the center of the compromise between education access and quality.

The compromise between access and quality is mostly seen in the dilemma to maintain higher free for the increasing number or students enrolling and or introducing tuition to ensure a healthy student/teacher ratio and other measures of quality. Having grappled with the idea of re-introducing tuition fees in higher education, major pushback arose from the public and the country’s politicians, who have shown a united stance for a tuition-free higher education. Apart from adding higher-ed taxes to graduates, there has not been much progress in finding alternative solutions. With few other options other than to increasing government funding, many have deemed this option to be unsustainable. Government expenditure for higher education increased by a third between 2005 and 2016, adding up to more than $26 billion. This has been an effective way of financing selective funding programs for higher-ed institutions, which has effectively maintained the international ranking and performance of research institutions and other specific programs.

Although Germany meets and exceeds SDG 4, the financing issue it faces reminds us of the challenge faced by developing nations in meeting the goal of quality education for all. For many of these nations, lack of funding leads to poor infrastructure, poor teacher training, reduced access for the less privileged, and others. It reminds us that for SDG 4 to be met, funding through aid, investment and fiscal policies will have to be increased in addition to the right education policies being implemented.

There are various lessons to be learned from the German Education system. From the allocation of government funding to the various education policies, the country’s education system is exemplary in many ways. Nonetheless, it shows us that no system is perfect and that an ongoing search for better education policies is necessary.

Pakistan: A Case for Mother-Tongue Based Education

SuSanA Secretariat / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Imagine you’re seven or eight years old sitting in your 2nd or 3rd grade classroom. Now imagine the textbook in front of you is in a language you don’t speak, but you’re still being asked to read and learn from it.  How do you feel? Are you frustrated? Feeling nervous? Confident? Motivated? This exact situation is currently happening to millions of children in schools across Pakistan.  


There has been a lot written about the number of children and adolescents out of school in Pakistan. According to UNICEF (n.d.), twenty-three million children aged five to sixteen are not enrolled in school which is the second highest number worldwide. Of the children aged five to nine, five million are out of school. However, there hasn’t been very much written about the seventeen million primary aged children who are enrolled in school. Of those seventeen million Pakistani children in school, the majority are illiterate (Naviwala, 2019).  

Only 35 percent of children in grades two and three are achieving minimum proficiency in reading (UNESCO, n.d.). This statistic is contributing to Pakistan’s learning poverty  which is when children, by the age of ten, cannot read and understand a basic text (The World Bank, 2019). There are many reasons for this low literacy rate including lack of government funding for educational institutions and the outdated curriculum (UNESCO, 2012). However, the fact that the majority of students in Pakistan are not being instructed in their mother tongue is a major factor in why so many students are illiterate.

Pakistan is home to almost 220 million people with diverse traditions, cultures, and languages (Pakistan, 2020). There are 74 living languages in Pakistan but the majority of the students in both government and private schools are being instructed in either English or Urdu, and sometimes both due to educational reforms (Pakistan Language, 2017; Naviwala, 2019). However, only 8 percent of the population speaks Urdu or English as their first language (The World Factbook, 2020). 94 percent of teachers in “English-medium” private schools in Punjab don’t speak English.  

Why are Urdu and English currently the medium of instruction in Pakistani schools?  

In 1948, the Advisory board of Education decided that the mother tongue (which included Punjabi, Siraiki, Sindhi, Urdu or Pashto) of a state or region would be the medium of instruction. However, because of the Hindi-Urdu controversy Urdu remained the language used in schools. Then because of the colonial influence in the country and the elitist status attached to English, English became more dominant. In 1973, Urdu was made the national language of Pakistan with the idea that it would replace English at the official and national level, which at that time never fully happened.  Today, both Urdu and English are official languages, while Urdu remains the national language of Pakistan. Thus, the medium of instruction has gone from Urdu to English and back creating challenges for the Pakistani education system (Mahfooz, 2019).  


Pakistani children are not taught to read but are taught rote memorization, regurgitation, and copying. The teacher will say a word in Urdu and/or English and students repeat it and copy it into their notebooks. Students are also given paragraphs of text to recite in Urdu and/or English accompanied by a translation or maybe just the gist in their mother tongue.  This depends on how much the teacher actually understands because teachers are not receiving adequate training and preparation to teach in multiple languages. Students learning is not about comprehension, critical thinking, or conceptual understanding. Because primary school students are not being taught to read in their mother-tongue, they are not cognitively prepared to learn in other languages. Researchers globally have agreed that primary education needs to be in the children’s first language (Naviwala, 2019). 

Source: ASER
Source: ASER

Despite educational reforms being implemented in Pakistan, literacy rates continue to drop for primary school children (ASER, 2015 & 2019).  


Developing literacy skills in early education sets up students for educational success and shapes their perception of learning (Iqbal, 2019). Being literate builds human capital and creates opportunity for human, economic, social and cultural contributions (UNICEF, n.d.). However, by not being able to read, Pakistani children are being excluded from learning which often leads to negative consequences, such as increased dropout rates from over 20 percent in 2013 to almost 30 percent in 2017, low social mobility, and unequal opportunities (UIS, n.d. & Naviwala, 2019). Children who have not mastered reading by the age of ten, the end of primary school, usual are unlikely to master reading later in life (The World Bank, 2019).  

To improve literacy rates in primary school children, Pakistan should consider changing the language of instruction from Urdu and/or English to students’ mother tongue. While this might require time and financial investment, in the long run it will be worth the effort to stop the illiteracy cycle so that Pakistan and its citizens can develop and progress (Naviwala, 2019 & UNESCO, 2012). By not using the language that children speak at home as the language of instruction, children are learning that intellect is only associated with Urdu and English and that their mother tongue is worthless. Furthermore, teacher education programs need to be reformed because what happens in the classroom is the key to quality education and supports student success (Naviwala, 2019).  


Daur Media, N. (2018). Six Key Challenges Faced by the Education Sector in Pakistan. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@nayadaurpk/six-key-challenges-faced-by-the-education-sector-in-pakistan-aeab63358bef

Fasih , T., Baron, J., & Martijn Geven, K. (2019). Pakistan Learning Poverty Brief. Retrieved from http://pubdocs.worldbank.org/en/214101571223451727/SAS-SACPK-PAK-LPBRIEF

Haider, S. B. (2019). Report: Why can’t Pakistani children read? Retrieved from https://tribune.com.pk/story/2013327/1-report-cant-pakistani-children-read/

Iqbal, S. J. (2019). Promoting literacy in Pakistan. Retrieved from https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/01/22/promoting-literacy-in-pakistan/

Lynd, D. (2007). The Education System in Pakistan: Assessment of the National Education Census. Retrieved from http://unesco.org.pk/education/documents/publications/The Education system in pakistan.pdf

Mahfooz, S. (2019). From Urdu to English and back. Retrieved from https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2019/08/02/from-urdu-to-english-and-back

Manzoor, N. (2019). Policy to bring designated reading time to Pakistan schools. Retrieved from https://www.creativeassociatesinternational.com/stories/new-policy-brings-designated-reading-time-pakistan-schools/

Naviwala, N. (2019). Why Can’t Pakistani Children Read? The Inside Story of Education Reform Efforts Gone Wrong (Report). Retrieved from https://www.wilsoncenter.org/publication/why-cant-pakistani-children-read-the-inside-story-education-reform-efforts-gone-wrong

Pakistan Language Tree. (2017). Retrieved from https://fli-online.org/site/language-tree/

Pakistan Population (LIVE). (2020). Retrieved from https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/pakistan-population/

The World Bank. (2019). Ending Learning Poverty: A Target to Galvanize Action on Literacy. Retrieved from https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/immersive-story/2019/11/06/a-learning-target-for-a-learning-revolution

The World Factbook: Pakistan. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/pk.html

UIS. (n.d.). Drop-out Rate in Primary Education. Retrieved from http://data.uis.unesco.org/Index.aspx?queryid=156

UNESCO. (n.d.). GEM Report Education Progress. Retrieved from https://www.education-progress.org/en/articles/learning/

UNESCO Office Islamabad. (2012). Why Pakistan Needs a Literacy Movement? Retrieved from https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000219680

UNICEF Pakistan. (n.d.). Education: Giving Every Child the Right to Education. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/pakistan/education

Wealth Disparities Cause Inequality in Education Access in Colombia

Photo Credit: Fernando Vergara

Education funding and enrollment

Credit: Global Education Monitoring Report

As a reflection of Colombia only reaching the half-way mark of its 2030 Target for wealth parity in upper secondary school completion, protests erupted in November 2019 in response to the inequality felt by many denizens of the country and to cuts in public education (Grattan, 2019).  The protests were originally sparked by students contesting government corruption and education cuts, made despite the need for increased education funding.  The need is clear as disparities in education funding are preventing many from obtaining higher education who would otherwise pursue it if higher education were more accessible.  Currently, only 7% of the poorest students get the opportunity to receive post-secondary education in contrast to 64% of the students from the richest households (Equity, 2020). 

Although a huge gap in post-secondary education attendance continues to exist, these education cuts are not representative of previous efforts to improve educational outcomes.  The issues that Colombia now faces overshadow the gains that have been made in education since the 1960s.  Greater government investment in education quintupled from 1966 to 1986 which in turn assisted in doubling primary school enrollment.  In addition, enrollment at the university-level multiplied fifteen times (Immerstein, 2015).

Nonetheless, Colombia’s recent cuts to public education, which helped spur the protests, are the antithesis of the 2002 education initiative called Revolución Educativa whose goals were to increase access to education and to improve its quality.  After this educational program was implemented, free public primary education was introduced in 2010.  In 2012, free public education was extended to secondary schools.  In accordance to the goal of then President Juan Manuel Santos of assuring that Colombia becomes Latin America’s most educated country by 2025, the budget for education was increased by 5.75% in 2015 (Immerstein, 2015).

In contrast, the proposed legislation of current President Duque would generate more inequality among Colombians.  This, along with government corruption, was the impetus that drove the students to protest and encouraged more of its citizens to gather in the streets.  Protesters were seeking better healthcare, more economic stability, more education funding, an end to violence, higher wages, and higher pensions (Grattan, 2019).

The inequality that is experienced by the average Colombian is reflected in the educational system and in how increased governmental funds were and are dispersed.  So, in considering the increased enrollment in the past, most students who enjoyed this access were in urban areas.  Rural areas consistently received a fraction of the percentage of the GDP towards education allotted to urban areas. 

Rural and at-risk students

Credit: Colombia Reports

Students in rural areas and at-risk children experience more obstacles attending school as they must navigate through precarious and dangerous environments.  In general, students from rural areas must travel long distances to reach their educational destination, and their routes often lack development and infrastructure.  Many at-risk students tend to be affected by family breakdown, the need to care for siblings or work, and the inability to cover the costs of uniforms and books.  A larger portion is faced with gang violence in their neighborhoods as these activities have lingered from decades of violence in Colombia.  Further, gangs target schools for recruitment of its members and to sexually exploit young people (Exclusion from Education, n.d.).   

For these reasons, more government funds are required to fill the gap in poor and rural communities to help confront these issues.  There is a need to address access to early childhood education, which will help to decrease the dropout rate among Colombian students, as early childhood development is paramount to success in secondary and post-secondary education (Colombian should improve equity and quality of education, 2016).


With improved education funding and better measures in assisting at-risk and rural students to receive quality education, Colombia could find itself closer to its 2030 Target for upper secondary school completion. In order to reach this goal, students should be supported throughout their educational journey in whatever area required for their success. This includes access to early childhood development, improved transportation in rural areas, and financial assistance for tuition, uniforms, and books. Once students receive the financial support and quality education required for success and completion of upper secondary school, more candidates for post secondary education will emerge regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds.


Colombia should improve equity and quality of education. (2016, April). Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). http://www.oecd.org/education/colombia-should-improve-equity-and-quality-of-education.htm

Equity. (2020). Global Education Monitoring Report. UNESCO. https://www.education-progress.org/en/articles/equity/

Exclusion from Education. (n.d.) Children Change Colombia. https://www.childrenchangecolombia.org/en/what-we-do/exclusion-from-education

Grattan, S. (2019, November). Colombia protests: What prompted them and where are they headed? Colombia News. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/colombia-protests-prompted-headed-191126163204600.html

Immerstein, S. (2015, December). Education in Colombia. World Education Services. https://wenr.wes.org/2015/12/education-in-colombia

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