In Colombia, as in other Latin American countries, minors are still given prison sentences when they are convicted in court. The association International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE), supported by AFD via its NGO Initiative, is trying to change this situation by advocating for minors not to be systematically shut up in prisons and to continue to live “a childhood without bars”.
To achieve this, BICE has partnered with the Tertiary Capuchins who, since 1988, have been managing juvenile counselling centers in Colombia. In terms of training, including academic training, the Tertiary Capuchins work with the Centro de Formación de Promotores Juveniles (CENFOR), which has developed adapted school curricula.
In a deprived neighborhood of Soacha, a town on the outskirts of Bogota, the association El Club Amigo Soacha offers an alternative to imprisonment to 120 young people whose life courses are often complex and violent.
In this center, education is the cornerstone of the programs proposed to adolescents. CENFOR has developed “à la carte” academic programs for these young people, who have sometimes been out of school for several years.
The teaching staff have been specially trained to coach these young people. They are always there to listen to them, motivate them every day via jointly defined rituals. For example, the students start their day by reciting a positive text. It is especially important that no one ever judges anyone, to avoid any kind of stigmatization. Together, teachers and students build a life project, so that the “remedial academic training” is integrated into the future of the young people in question.