In Colombia the educational system is divided into four parts. It starts with preschool (Educación Inicial), were some children begin learning how to read between the ages of 4 and 5. There is a 9 year long period of compulsory schooling, consisting of five years in primary school and four in secondary school (Educación Básica (primaria y secundaria)). After another two years of schooling, a student is considered a high school graduate and given his or her Bachillerato. In high school, students can take on different specializations, focusing either on future university studies or on different professional trainings in technical, pedagogical or social fields, among others.
Although participation in the first 9 years of education is technically compulsory, there are many students who do not attend to school regularly. Especially in rural areas, they are pressured to stay at home and support their families. Another major obstacle comes from the focus on a local educational policy; in poorer regions this leads to a deficit in classrooms, teachers, and learning materials.
The situation is similar in Istmina where the Colegio Diocesano San José, which our program intends to support, is located. The school has one of the best graduation rates of the entire region. It is governed by the Catholic Church, specifically the diocese of Chocó and its head padre José Doney Rojas Marulanda, and it teaches 169 students. In order to be able to admit the 20 girls that will be living in our residential home, the building has to be expanded. Furthermore, at the moment the school only has the resources to provide a basic education, so it is our hope to fund additional classrooms and teachers. This expansion, which we call phase II of our project, will allow the students to complete the final two years and receive their Bachillerato.