The culmination of the Colombian peace process effectively resulted in the end of more than 50 years of internal, organised and armed conflict with the Farc guerrilla movement. Needless to say, after decades of war, the effects, repercussions and challenges of having achieved peace can be felt in every aspect of Colombian society.
Education is no exception. The impact of the peace-building process can be felt in academic institutions and classrooms all over the country. Conscious of the vital role of education and young people in the new society we aim to build, we at the University of the Andes (Uniandes) are proud to say that we have geared our efforts to raise awareness among our academic community of this huge change.
This has resulted in the launch of several programmes and initiatives that target the same objective: peace. Examples of the transformation at Uniandes include the creation of a new master’s degree programme in peace-building, our Día Paíz (Day for Peace) celebrations, and student initiatives such as LiderAndes, which provides financial support to undergraduates.
Our pioneering master’s degree in peace-building has been specially designed to address fundamental subjects such as conflict, peace, transition, memory and post-conflict periods, building on a diversity of perspectives and all areas of knowledge.
We aim to offer a broad, interdisciplinary approach to the post-conflict period, including aspects such as the restoration of justice to civilian life, reparations for victims, coexistence and reconciliation, in the hope of building a more realistic picture of the society we now encounter.
Our desire is to prepare professionals from all areas and interests – not just those who intend to work directly on the transition to peace or the challenges of the post-conflict period, but also those dedicated to research on these subjects.
Meanwhile, Día Paíz encompasses a number of celebrations that recognise the symbolic importance of national peace and the strong patriotic feelings that have resulted from the peace negotiation process. Seven universities across the country each devote half a day during the same week to reflect on peace in different contexts.
At Uniandes, Día Paíz is a Peace-building Summit organised by students, academics and members of our local communities who wish not only to build peace on campus but also to set an example for civil society in general.
As for LiderAndes, this is an all-student fundraising initiative that has contributed greatly to the transformation of our community. The programme, led by a group of students, seeks to support low-income students who wish to study at our university.
The leadership, solidarity and commitment behind this project has had such a significant impact that it has motivated the university to provide additional matching funding: the university now donates a peso for every peso raised by students.
LiderAndes provides an opportunity for students across the country to benefit from private university education, and consequently helps to reduce social gaps and inequalities.
Although there are still many challenges to address and many aspects that require more work and continued effort in order to achieve a successful implementation of the peace agreements, there is no doubt about the positive and beneficial effects that the peace deal has already had on Colombian society.
We at the University of the Andes vow to keep investing in peace-building through every means possible, taking advantage of this unique historical opportunity, and contributing to a peaceful and reconciled country.
Pablo Navas Sanz de Santamaría is rector of the University of the Andes, Colombia.