Afro-Colombian tempo rises

October 13, 2006

More Afro-Colombians are enrolled on higher education courses today than four years ago, according to government figures.

In the predominantly black areas along Colombia's Pacific and Atlantic coast, the number of Afro-Colombians in higher education has increased between 5 and 11 per cent since 2002.

Government grants aimed at low-income members of the Afro-Colombian community have helped to boost numbers. Recipients are required to take part in community work and reach certain academic standards.

Student Alfonso Rios said: "To apply for the grant, I had to submit a detailed plan outlining how I would contribute to an Afro-Colombian community."

He acts as a mentor to schoolchildren in the destitute neighbourhoods of Bogotá. But he said the government grant was inadequate. "It's impossible to cover my transport and accommodation costs and the matriculation fee."

Afro-Colombians make up about 25 per cent of Colombia's population and are grossly underrepresented in universities. The Government will spend 3.3 billion pesos (£740,000) next year in grants for 2,800 Afro-Colombians.

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