War-torn Colombia is making peace class a thing

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After 50 years of living war, Colombia is ready to learn about peace.

President Juan Manuel Santos this week signed a new law requiring all Colombian schools and universities to include basic course requirements in peace education.

The idea, according to the government, is to democratize the country's peace process and make it more inclusive, following criticism about the handling of the two-and-a-half-year-old peace talks behind closed doors between the government and FARC guerrillas in Havana, Cuba.

"We need to create scenarios of coexistence, harmony and fraternity in our schools and start this process with the youth, because they are the future of our country," President Santos said. "Today we are making a great stride in building a peace that we all dream of; it's a peace that's not being negotiated in Havana, but one that has to be born within every Colombian as part of their daily lives."


Education Minister Gina Parody said the new peace curriculum, which needs to be written and codified before December, will be a key to teaching citizenship skills to help students solve problems peacefully. It will also help create an education environment that's free of bullying and violence, she said.

There are more than 10.7 million Colombian students in the education system, and an additional 2.2 million students in the university system, according to government numbers. That means around 26 percent of Colombia's population will be enrolled in peace classes next year.


The basic thinking behind the law is that everyone in Colombia has been affected by the war, so everyone should be included in the process of making peace. More than 6 million Colombians were victims of the war, mostly from forced displacement, between 1984-2014, according to government's Victims Unit.

"All Colombians have suffered from the conflict," said Marieta Quintero Mejía, a professor of peace and education at the Universidad Distrital in Colombia. "We have learned to live in a certain way that has shaped our minds. Violence is more than just guns.”


Still not everyone agrees that peace should be treated as its own separate subject.

Former education vice minister Isabel Segovia told El Espectador newspaper said she thinks peace should instead be incorporated into other existing subject matter, such as arts, social sciences, language and even math.


Juan Luis Mejía, director of Eafit University, agrees that peace isn't a subject that can be taught like other material. "Peace is not a material like physics or chemistry, rather a spirit that born of constant reflection," he said.

While peace education is still untested in Colombia, trying to teach peace — even with an imperfect curriculum — has got to be better than the alternative.


Iván Luzardo is a Colombian journalist with a focus on technology, economics and business topics. He is a visiting fellow at Fusion, and loves soccer, travel and digital trends.