The main teachers union in Colombia, FECODE, has released figures showing the extent of violence committed against teachers in the country. Since 1980, at least 1,088 teachers in Colombia have been murdered while 1,549 have been forcibly displaced. On average, a teacher has been murdered every 28 days during the 38-year period.
The lack of security for teachers was a major factor in the recent strike organised by FECODE in July, the third time the union had taken industrial action this year. It follows on from the 37-day national strike in 2017 which shut down education across much of the country.
With at least nine teachers murdered in 2018, violence remains an urgent issue. Murdered teachers this year include Holman Mamián in Cauca, Evelia Atencia Pérez and Hernando Manjarrez Escudero in La Guajira, Delmayro Reyes González, in Valle del Cauca, Frank Darío Rincón inHuila and Juan de Jesús Moreno in Caquetá. In many cases, nobody has been prosecuted for the crimes.
According to FECODE president Carlos Rivas, many teachers are targeted due to chronic state neglect in the regions they live and work in, and their prominent social role in seeking to redress inequality, poverty and criminal activity. ‘They fight for fundamental rights: access to water and health, for example. They are integral political subjects and this society does not respect them. Today, for example, the teacher has to denounce microtrafficking, because the school became an epicentre for the sale of narcotics and those affected are the students’, said Rivas.
According to FECODE, there are between 200 and 300 human rights violations committed against Colombian teachers each year. Viviana Colorado of the National Trade Union School (ENS) said that there have been over 6,000 recorded violations against teachers since the mid-1970s. She also said that teachers are targeted for their opposition to drugs dealing and forced recruitment into armed groups, both of which predominantly affect young people.