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Rural youngsters are marginalized

The issues of teenagers in rural areas are directly related to rural activities, but their expectations do not have a seat in public policies as a function of their particularities as a group in the development of their territories.

Some experts establish the category of “rural youngsters” as:

  • A population between 14 and 26 years of age.
  • Linked to disperse populations in the countryside.
  • Their livelihood depends in some degree to agricultural activities

More amply, it includes youngsters from rural origins which do not live in rural communities but in urban peripheral areas because it is considered that have strong identity roots and daily customs, proper of rural areas.

According to the National Census of 2005, rural adolescents are almost 6% of the total population and 24.5% of the rural population and a masculinity index (108) above teens which live in urban areas (97.8). This figure suggests the migration of rural women to cities is greater than that of men, as there is where they find more occupational opportunities than men.

Among the figures which demonstrate the city-rural gap is that for 1990, elementary school had coverage of 90% of the population between 6 and 11 years of age, while in the rural areas, coverage did not even reach 70%, and of this, only 20% finish fifth grade and 4% finish high school. Furthermore, the level of schooling in the urban sector was 3.7 grades, while it was 1.7 in rural areas, with a high rate of repetition.

Although the situation has changed, the lag and inequity of rural education continue. 8% of the Colombian population (3.5 million people) is illiterate, and 18 of every 100 people in rural areas have not received any formal education; only 33% of children who are provided elementary school continue into high school and effectively graduate. Children and youngsters of the most impoverished families and of rural areas have fewer possibilities to have access to high school and successfully graduate from school.

Universities and quality institutions in municipalities

In 2014, the Rural Development Research Incubator (Sinder, for its Spanish acronym) of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) Faculty of Human Sciences carried out a project called, “Educación para la ruralidad: respuestas desde los territorios  (Education for rural communities: Answers from the territories”), which emerged from the context of the relevant issues to the Colombian rural sector, as the aging of the population, youngster migration to urban centers, illegal armed groups recruiting practices and the need to approach education as a cause or solution to said issues.

In terms of quality, the “New school” model is greatly provided by the local government of every region. However, they discovered that the conditions of physical infrastructure, professor discontinuity, political patronage of municipal school principals and the lack of access to information technologies are only some of the causes of low-quality education.

Additionally, the Technical Agricultural Educational Institutions (IETA, for its Spanish acronym) are pertinent and functional only for the expansion of agro-industrial and forest projects and advance working class labor directed towards oil palm plantations and tropical fine woods, not transmitting concepts and practices of traditional crops such as yucca, corn, yams, and plantain, or activities such as fishing. Furthermore, environmental education programs are inexistent.

In regards, to informal education experiences, they determined that the School for Memory Narrators or the “Environmental Education Process around the reforestation project of the Playón Reservoir,” are examples of the strategies and proposals of the territories in face of access, quality and pertinence issues exhibited by schools established by different governments. But is also the response to community needs.

Another finding was linked to the dissatisfaction with the right to education in rural youngsters of the territories and expressed as:

  • Low quality and scarce formal educational program offer
  • 10th and 11th grade are not provided in poor municipalities
  • Lack of education and specialization of teachers
  • Contents which do not correspond to the needs of the youngster of these territories

The preceding indicates why municipalities need to have universities and institutions to provide quality education, allowing youngsters to develop their capabilities and stay in their territory contributing to development and progress. Their life plans are directed towards a professional education in careers different from the agricultural needs to contribute to concrete issues of their communities. For instance, during fieldwork, the study found teens that wanted to be professors and contribute to rescuing cultural elements in their territory through education. Another case was young women which proposed to research and provide solutions to sexuality issues among youngsters and expressed her desire to study social psychology.

Loss of cultural wealth

The migration of rural teens to urban centers implies that traditional knowledge will tend to disappear. This knowledge contributes to the development of the municipality, as it represents and reviews the history of the relationship which built the communities which have lived in the territory with the ecosystems of the region and its characteristics.

Sinder perceives this a topic which deserves thought as it is the progressive loss of cultural wealth in relation with the uses and meanings, plant care, diversification, propagation, and protection of native seeds; artistic manifestations and artisanal and culinary practices, besides those related to the historic memory and oral traditions.

Moreover, it considers this requires programs and projects directed to divulge and preserve these practices and knowledge, for which summons could be created to link youngsters and leaders from different municipalities to jointly work in these topics, creating quality education development and occupational opportunities in the territory.

In this sense, the solution to the needs of rural youngsters should go beyond agricultural activities and should involve, among other aspects, urgent topics such as healthcare, infrastructure, social, economic, environmental, legal and energy matters.


Consejo Editorial