Education in emergencies

Walking along trails and rowing canoes: how boys and girls get to school in Catrú

Tricio Forastero is a teacher at the Patricio Mecha Educational Institution, located in Catrú Central, in Alto Baudó (Chocó), an indigenous community who live in the Dubaza river basin. Within the framework of the emergency education strategy that Unicef ​​Colombia and Click+Clack are implementing, we had the opportunity to talk to him to better understand the emergencies and challenges faced by the community and how this affects the educational career of boys, girls, young people, and adolescents.

Click+Clack: Tell us a little about the Patricio Mecha Educational Institution.

Tricio Forastero: It is an agricultural school. The institution has land, it has plots where the students practice planting and breeding… We grow different crops here: plantain, cassava, banana, guadua trees, and coconut palms. The courses always take place here within the institution and the students do them with the help of the teacher from that subject area. And all the teachers, from different subject areas, are close by, helping to carry out this practice or this planting.

CC: What are the emergencies you face in the community?

TF: One is the phenomenon of nature, for example, the winter seasons, because it rains a lot and the students do not go to school. There are also floods, landslides and rising rivers, which also prevent many students from traveling from home to the community to attend their classes. When the floods come, the students stay at home looking after their things so they don’t get damaged. In addition, there is the public order situation, the presence of armed groups… due to fear, the children also do not attend their classes.

CC: How do students get to school?

TF: In the institution there are students from far away communities. They are 3 or 4 hours away. Boys and girls travel down to school in their boats. There are other boys and girls who live in a ravine, who take a path and when they reach the big river, after walking along the trail, they take a boat. Other students are from the community itself and they can easily get to school.

CC: Who drives the boats?

TF: The boats are canoes and they drive them themselves. They are canoes in which they themselves can row and get here. Without any adults. They are all boys and girls from the institution, they are older, but they usually bring siblings who are 8 years old, 10 years old, 11 years old. They bring them so they can attend classes here at the institution.

CC: Apart from school, in what other places can boys and girls learn? How do boys and girls learn when they face emergencies?

TF: At home. They can learn from their mom, from their dad, from their siblings and aunts and uncles. Because the older ones can tell something to their children. When faced with certain emergencies, such as floods, physical education teachers use them in sports activities, but not all the time… this only happens when the river is flooded.