The Colegio Diocesano San José in Istmina was founded in January of 2011. Twelve teachers have since been responsible for educating the 168 students in core subjects such as arithmetic, reading and writing, but also woodwork and sewing. Moreover, the Colegio Diocesano San José focuses on strengthening humanistic and Christian values. The main goal is to permanently break the cycle many children are stuck in by imparting the necessary knowledge and skills on students that enable them to live an economically self-determined life. The Colegio seeks to prepare them for a professional path far away from the illegal gold panning, prostitution, or affiliations with criminal organizations. By teaching fundamental values at the school, students learn to recognize structural violence in the society as unjust and consequently learn to reject this form of violence. Unfortunately, at the present time violence and injustices are seen as normality in Chocó and are therefore largely tolerated by victims.
The Colegio Diocesano San José receives no state support, but rather is funded by diocese and school fees. Students who cannot afford the tuition fee are allowed to attend the school free of charge – currently 31 students.
Children from remote regions of the Chocó come to Istmina – without relatives and without a permanent residence – to attend the Colegio Diocesano San Jose. They often work as service staff in “host families” where they are exploited and abused. Driven by their misery many of these young girls turn towards prostitution. Apart from the danger of disease and traumatic experiences, they face the risk of unintentional pregnancy which pushes them even further toward the fringes of society.
Thankfully, Bishop Julio García and his team wish to build a home for girls in Istmina where they can receive a valuable education while living in a secure environment. The Bishop believes that strengthening women in societies is key to breaking patriarchal structures and can be the beginning of a path to a better future for the entire Colombian society.