SOS – HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN COLOMBIA

Such a far tradition of the social movement remains to be part of the current critical moment that Colombian nation is going through. Despite COVID-19 pandemic forced a social distancing and confinement since March 2020, workers, educators, young people, indigenous people and peasants decided to join in massive peaceful protests that began last April 28 within a decisive National Strike.

The protests have been extended for more than 8 days in several cities of the nationwide, highlighting fair social demands, which refer among other issues to remove the health bill 010, basic income, defense of national production, zero enrollment, non-gender discrimination, and blocking the return of aerial spraying with glyphosate to eradication of illicit crops, among other matters enhancing new demands.

The mobilization agenda submits a great social nonconformity in the midst of a health crisis that has highlighted the huge social inequalities exacerbated with a 5.4% increase of unemployment during 2020 against 2019 according to DANE data. Young people and women have been the most adversely impacted by lack of opportunities; according to NGO Oxfam Intermon figures, 5% loss to women’s employment has been estimated at a global level.

In order to perform an actual creation of our Colombian democracy, it is important that government guarantees an opinion-and-mobilization citizen freedom; however, demonstrations have been spoiled by strong police violence and excessive force that has been questioned by UN, European Union and several national and international organizations statements calling for respect by the state to human rights, particularly the right to life and personal safety. Despite accusations spreading through social networks over the planet, violence does not stop and even has been increased with re-emergence of military actions against population and attacks by mercenaries who shoot indiscriminately at demonstrators and then flee, such as at night of May 5 where three Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira’s students who were peacefully protesting were shot, and the student leader Lucas Villa was painfully wounded; a guy committed to defend public education and peaceful protest, whose fact is outrageous.

The government by President Iván Duque has not a strong message to the Colombian society to overcome the crisis; a wide wing of the government party resorts to failed proposals during the recent past of the Uribe administration, such as the statement of the state of internal commotion, which would give unusual power to the President of the Republic to control social demonstrations, take control of communications and enforce other measures despite their legality but would turn into forceful interventions worsening social unrest.

A dialogue willingness seems too softy by the national government through carefully selection channels carried out with political parties, institutions, university rectors and one or two social actors that don’t characterize the thousands of demonstrators who continue expressing themselves in the streets. Negotiated solutions to the conflict in the country are urgently required; the recent Colombian history taking into account the Peace Agreement signed in 2016 is a valuable experience for that. We must not hesitate any longer and every social sector participating in the mobilizations must be widely arranged through concrete round-table dialogues with clear issues and methodological routes contributing to discuss and solve the crisis our country is experiencing. It is necessary to build agreements with all the Colombian people, understanding their demands, and undertaking the economic and political changes required to resume the path of national reconciliation.

Choosing authoritarianism surely will only intensify violence and the country will be the same as other times: a painted-blood spot in the American continent. Dialogue is the way, it is the best option, but this discussion must be honest, truthful in face to all social sectors of the country. As Paulo Freire would say: “The dialogue as a democratic relationship is the chance, I have to be open to thinking of others, not to become extinct in solitude,” a relevant phrase during these times so the government does not choose for loneliness, despair and death.

@LeoMartinezUPN
* Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

GLYPHOSATE SPRAYING COMES BACK AND PLAYS

Once again, our country is witnessing a great socio-environmental debate around the recurrence of the questionable aerial spraying using glyphosate. The critical issue is the faint-hearted attitude that Colombian state assumes its political and ethical accountability to guarantee the Mother Earth´s rights. While it is true that Colombia has a significant set of policies and regulations aimed at ensuring that citizens enjoy a healthy environment and the diversity protection and conservation of ecologically important areas is a priority, agendas of the incumbent governments are distinctly distant from protecting, conserving and above all respecting the natural and cultural wealth our nation has throughout the territory.

After a long procession of citizen and legal struggles mainly with global scope, the glyphosate spraying had been interrupted by Colombian government in October 2015 based on a WHO report that qualified such a chemical substance taking into account some risks associated to human cancer development. Subsequently, legal actions undertaken by indigenous communities who took on their role of defending Mother Earth started to pay off from a tutela filed where they argued serious impacts to life due to aerial spraying. By 2017, the Supreme Court of Justice ruled the government to mend damages caused to Carijona indigenous community and based on the precautionary principle set chief guidelines for a feasible use of glyphosate with strict controls and the most interestingly issue is they requested Congress to create a new legislation to address scientific studies and citizen discussions to comply in a safer way the eradication of illicit crops.

By December 2020, there were more than 190 active lawsuits against indiscriminate spraying, besides 109 court rulings that condemned the nation for some aspect associated to spraying with the herbicide. All of this shows there is an evident nonconformity of several sectors of the Colombian people against a dangerous practice bringing more hazards than benefits.

Once again, the stubbornness of Colombian government headed by President Iván Duque stresses fighting illicit crops with such a dangerous formula of glyphosate. The Decree 333 of April 6, 2021 is seeking at all costs to recover a practice that will evidently impact Mother Earth. This would seem to be the ill-fated message, by the way in this month when we honor the International Mother Earth Day stated by United Nations since 1970, after hard struggles of the emerging international environmental movement that managed to achieve important worldwide commitments with the subsequent advance of the first Earth Summit in Stockholm in 1972.

It is not a matter of justifying spraying at any cost with detailed control of variables so it would be controlled and effective, or undertaking not to perform them in places of natural preservation, or establishing mechanisms to mend from risks; in short, a long series of commitments hiding the background of the issue, i.e., failing a real, ethical and effective commitment regarding rights of the planet and all forms of life that inhabit it.

It is necessary to emphasize on sustainable actions to face the illicit crops issue, and this means trusting in communities, including their knowledge and experiences, i.e., it is possible to work with indigenous people and peasants who have suffered all the consequences of drug trafficking in regions and seeking to advance and replace illicit crops, manual eradication and particularly on social changes of rural territories as set forth within the Peace Agreement.

The core of the problem and the likely resolution is rescuing the ancestral knowledge that stands up for freedom of the land, as Cauca indigenous communities say with their own words: “Land is our Mother for us and anything against Her is a crime from which all evils and miseries come. Our Mother, the Mother of all the living beings is subjected according to the law imposed, She has owners, She has become a private property. By subjecting Her as a property to exploit Her, they have taken away Her freedom to engender life and protect and teach the places, relationships and time of anything is living. They prevent it from producing food, wealth, and well-being for all the peoples and living things. Those who appropriate Her surely would produce hunger, misery and death, something should not be. They are stealing Her blood, flesh, arms, children and milk to set up the power of a few over the misery of the rest”**.

* Rector, Universidad Pedagógica Nacional.

** Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN. (2015). We are still in Minga for Mother Earth’s Freedom.

@LeoMartinezUPN
* Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

HOW WILL ZERO-ENROLLMENT TAKE PLACE AND WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE RELATED TO EDUCATION FREE OF CHARGE?

Faced to dramatic circumstances of young Colombians and their families due to the pandemic aftermath that has severely hampered the informal economy and jobs of the low-income population segments, students have no way to pay their tuition fees in Higher Education Institutions (HEI), and are at a cross-road by spending the few resources they get in the day-by-day sub-employment for their survival or meeting the money obligation of their studies. In 2020 in this background zero-enrollment emerged as a result of claim of the Colombian student body for higher education.

Since April last year, student demonstrations emerged in several areas of the country requesting a bailout to the national government related to the infusion of additional resources to meet the payment of tuitions; these voices were joined to communications by SUE and ASCUN leaders who also asked for support from the national government. As a result of all this nationwide outcry, the government made available COP$97,500 million during 2020 from Solidarity Fund for Education for all HEIs, and COP$98,800 million available for 2021 of these funds themselves until this date.

Another problem to take into account with implementation of zero-tuition is resource management that would not be transferred directly to universities as first announcements of the national Government said, since the institutions really will receive these resources through ICETEX and that demands some new administrative procedures, that is, they involve staff resources that universities provide without any other additional resource for this purpose. Despite all these implications, we are committed in such a way that students and their families may have these important resources in pandemic times, which has revealed more clearly the huge social inequalities we live in.

In this regard, it is important to specify that free-education issue for higher education is a concept, which differs from zero-enrollment because it represents a historical claim of several social sectors that particularly in Latin America have suggested to guarantee education as a fundamental right of all citizens, so the state enables universal access to higher education at no cost. This concept of free education involves that operational costs of students, which require hiring professors, university welfare, and everything related to academic quality, should be clearly financed by the state.

How long will we have to wait for our country to assume a sharp-and-forceful policy placing the right to education in first order beyond the instrumentalization of this public good as a service?

@LeoMartinezUPN
* Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

 

LET’S DEFEND WATER AND LIFE

International Water Day was commemorated on March 22nd, a date promulgated by United Nations since 1992 with the purpose to draw attention of all the countries in the world regarding care and respect for this vital substance, since there are still 2.2 billion people in the world who do not have access to drinking water according to figures of the same organization, and, on the other hand, the water sources of the planet and the ecosystems that protect them are heavily affected by human groups.

Although this commemoration is significant and demands arisen to reduce water consumption and waste, to lessen the discharge of pollutants and waste into water sources, and to protect the planet’s ecosystems are extremely relevant, it is also necessary to rethink the ways to understand and vision we have as a society about nature and this critical liquid. In essence, a biocentric idea is required taking into account the planet, namely, it does not label biotic and abiotic factors as mere resources in the name of the economic development but recognizing them as a whole where complex, synergic and symbiotic relationships are intertwined, allowing the presence of a diversity of life systems.

As Eduardo Gudynas** argues, today’s ecological crisis is a result of the pressure we have progressively applied on ecosystems since the Industrial Revolution in a world whose global economy increasingly requires exploiting each country’s own resources. Such an intensified extractivism is linked to commercialized and materialistic concept of Nature, something that has pushed the planet’s environmental sustainability to the wall. Thus, historically in our cultural system, Nature has been the means of economic development, the object of control and manipulation, nullifying the chance of envisioning it as a legal matter.

This concept of Nature and water despite knowing their vital role for life has risen major dichotomies and conflicts where economic interests are disputing a prioritization status against quality of life of entire populations and the protection of ecosystems. According to Atlas of Environmental Conflicts in the World, there are major conflicts associated to the issue of water supply on the planet. In our country things are no different; for example, there is a great social concern about approval of environmental licenses for mining megaprojects that would sacrifice large areas of moorland and polluting the water sources of entire populations, besides projects that would detriment the biota of a river and the surrounding populations to build large dams, large extensions of forest and jungle, large extensions of forest and jungle, and the protection of ecosystems, large extensions of forest and jungle that are deforested year-by-year for cattle raising, and the expectation to implement fracking as a hydrocarbon exploitation technique despite the risk involved for soils and groundwaters among many other examples showing these disputes, which spot the urgent need of a paradigm shift to really understand Nature.

Despite the hegemonic materialistic concept of Nature, there are movements of resistance to prioritize the defense of water and life as a whole to advocate for freedom and choose the environment where anyone wants to live. Such a clear example is the socio-environmental conflict in the Moorland of Santurban after the delimitation of moors, encouraging several social mobilizations organized to rescue the value of the ecosystem, water, and the moorland for surrounding populations, while preventing the development of mining megaproject that would leave hundreds of people without drinking water and surely would destroy the ecosystem.

Another related situation is linked with the prospective implementation of hydrocarbon exploitation in Unconventional Deposits (YNC, the Spanish acronym) in our country, also known as fracking. Professor Leonardo David Donado, who was in the Independent Interdisciplinary Commission regarding this technique carried out by the General Comptroller of the Nation, assured that our country is not ready for this practice. Then it was a pilot carried out in Magdalena Medio; by the way, environmentalists, such as Oscar Sampayo, state that technique to fracture the rock will cause critical social and environmental problems in Santander and Cesar since there is evidence that fracking in other regions of the world has caused diseases, damage to ecosystems, and contamination of water sources.

To that extent, in order to face the water crisis we are living today it is mandatory to assume a concept to reestablish the integrity of the ecosystem, by recognizing human beings as a part of that whole very close to ancestral ideas that considered water as a vital part of Pacha Mama; conceptions such as Muisca people who think through the river runs the thought of the earth and recognizes water as the basic essence of the planet.

As I said before, Nature is one and to that extent water cannot be perceived as a customized good, otherwise it must be seen as part of a whole where life is being developed and we are a part of it. In our country, the defense of water involves defending and conserving the ecosystems where they are flowing, and life leaves its own path.


@LeoMartinezUPN

* Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

** Gudynas, E. (2014). Derechos de la Naturaleza: Ética biocéntrica y políticas ambientales. Lima: Red GE, CooperAcción y PDTG.

WOMEN’S INEQUALITIES AND ACHIEVEMENTS IN PANDEMICS TIMES

As it is well-known, International Women’s Day was commemorated on March 8. That historic date at the international level recognizes the arduous struggle of women to achieve equal rights and freedoms, as well as equal labor, educational and political conditions, in a world still characterized by huge gender inequalities. It is an opportunity to make visible the long-standing injustices, but also a reason to highlight the relevant social roles that women have assumed up today.

This struggle has been strengthened over years and has evolved into the worldwide feminist movement, which defends the vindication of the women’s social role, by challenging the existing patriarchal structures, disqualification, discrimination, and exclusion due to gender. Throughout time, this movement has driven a process of getting freedoms as old as the genesis of modernity itself but constitutes a continuous battle against inequality and privileges that some have retained through active-and-systemic violence.

Considering the commemoration takes place in this peculiar pandemic scenario, it is utmost importance to recognize the efforts and contributions that women have made to advance and overcoming this health emergency. Some are behind the vaccines, others behind the discovery of SARS-CoV-2 and others died before Covid-19 emergence, but the work of all of them has helped to learn more about this issue and proposing alternatives to overcome and/or avoid the disease.

A first relevant contribution was given by Rosalind Franklin, a British chemist and crystallographer who contributed significantly to the construction of the double helix model of DNA, developed from her work with X-ray diffraction images. This work later made possible the experimental replication of DNA of bacterium Escherichia coli. In 1962, some years later, his co-workers received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for such important achievement; however, despite her prominent contribution, her name was not included. As a result, the entire field of molecular biology is open and every genetic analyses today are critical for knowledge of the viruses-and-bacteria information for vaccine development and disease treatment. Although it is not a recent discovery, it is one of the main bases for every research has been carried out on SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, including its detection methods, genetic sequencing, and development of vaccines.

Other significant studies were carried out by June Almeida, a Scottish scientist who, thanks to her knowledge of electron microscopy, managed to obtain an accurate image of a virus like influenza but different growing conditions; this virus would be called coronavirus due to its structure like a solar corona. This work was of great importance to identify a group of viruses causing the current sanitary emergency.

On the other hand, Dr. Shi Zhengli, Director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), and her team had been studying bat-borne viruses for years and already described the coronavirus before the global outbreak of COVID-19. Their work established the pathogen and identified it as a new virus within the same family of SARS with 96.2% genome overlap with the most closely related known coronavirus, which they named SARS-CoV-2.

In short, the research conducted by Sarah Gilbert, a British vaccinologist specializing in development of vaccines against influenza and emerging viral pathogens, was critical to develop the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, one of the four vaccines approved for marketing against COVID-19. This scientist has been distinguished for her participation to develop other very important vaccines, such as the universal flu vaccine underwent clinical trials in 2011.

Also, the work of Nita Patel, the current head of the scientific team at Novavax, a company whose coronavirus vaccine is currently in the final stages of clinical trials. Although it is not yet ready, experts are already calling it one of the most promising. In fact, all the vaccines under development and already being administered have a female researcher among those mainly responsible for their development. For example, Katalin Karikó, the senior vice-president of BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals,  together with other scientists, contributed to develop the wide-spread distribution Pfizer vaccine, which has been also administered to millions of people around the world.

But women’s contributions are not only found in scientific and technological developments hoping to curb the health emergency, also they are on the front lines of care, since according to data of World Health Organization, women make up 70% of the personnel working in the health and social assistance sector. This puts them at the center of the response to COVID-19, even though they often remain under-represented in decision-making and management.

@LeoMartinezUPN
Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

MYTHS ABOUT COVID-19 VACCINES

In a previous column, I proposed an analysis of the positions of leaders around the world who, in the context of the pandemic, have ignored, distorted or manipulated the findings of scientific research on the health emergency, on the origin of the SARS-CoV virus. 2 and on the measures necessary to safeguard the life and integrity of their populations, putting their political and economic interests first.

According to figures reported by the WHO, to date, COVID-19 has left more than 2.5 million fatalities around the world, has put the health systems of countries in check and has forced governments to carry out closures of different economic sectors, as well as total and partial confinements of their populations, in order to reduce the speed of spread of the virus. To this extent, since the beginning of the health emergency, the richest countries, their academics and different pharmaceutical multinationals have invested enormous efforts in research that results in the development of vaccines that, when supplied, generate the production of necessary antibodies in the body. to combat the development of the virus, generate immunity and, therefore, prevent the progress of the disease.

To this day, different types of vaccines have been built and many others continue to be developed. At the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021, the existence of 14 vaccines that were in phase 3 of the clinical trials was reported; Some have already successfully passed this stage and have been authorized by WHO for distribution, others continue in the process. On December 31, 2020, the WHO issued an Emergency Use List (EUL) for the Pfizer / BioNTech COVID-19 (BNT162b2) vaccine, making it the first to receive this validation since the outbreak began a year ago. Subsequently, on February 15, 2021, the EUL was issued for two versions of the AstraZeneca / Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India and SKBio. Consequently, several countries around the world have begun their mass vaccination program, the WHO has called for each government to accelerate its own regulatory approval processes to import and administer the vaccine, as well as to facilitate equitable global access to the vaccine. herself. These authorizations also allow UNICEF and the Pan American Health Organization to purchase the vaccine for distribution to countries that need it.

Issues related to this are frequently disclosed by the media and addressed on social networks; in the latter, all kinds of content circulate and are widely disseminated. Thus, an avalanche of misinformation has been unfolded about risks related to vaccines, their lack of security, conspiracy theories and domination strategies that present apparently qualified arguments against the vaccination processes. These anti-vaccine movements are several years old, but have reached their peak due to the pandemic and focus their activity on the dissemination of information that is not verified and difficult to verify from a scientific point of view, however, depending on its scope, it can affect countries’ vaccination coverage and, in the case of COVID-19, prolonging the imminent risk of contagion for much longer.

The second thing that must be taken into account is that for a vaccine or drug to be released on the market, it must undergo clinical trial phases that provide information on its reliability and effectiveness in treating diseases in the human body. There are three phases that this process comprises once the risks that can be determined without testing in humans have been ruled out; The first stage contemplates the administration of doses to carefully selected healthy subjects. In this phase, it is intended to rule out adverse health consequences due to the vaccine for the general population. Once it has been proven that it has no adverse incidence in healthy subjects, the second phase carries out trials in carefully selected sick people; finally, the third and final phase administers doses in selected patients with less strict criteria, to evaluate their effects. Once these 3 phases have been overcome and if the results are satisfactory, it is administered in all types of patients.

Other myths associated with vaccines, particularly against COVID-19, are related to the possibility of changing the genetic information of the person to whom it is administered, the insertion of a technological device that allows tracking and monitoring, the intention of decimating the population. worldwide, among many others. As we have already seen, each of these claims could easily be disputed and refuted based on the existing data. On the other hand, the myths exposed are paradoxical in a scenario like the Colombian one, in which there is no certainty about the availability and access to vaccines for the entire population, which contradicts the arguments that weigh it as a strategy of domination.

That is why education assumes a great challenge and a relevant role, not only to elucidate those arguments that have the evidence to be disseminated from those that do not, but to contribute to the formation of a culture of care in all citizens.

@LeoMartinezUPN
Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

WHERE ARE THE UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS IN THE VACCINATION PLAN?

As is widely known, the COVID-19 pandemic has its origin in the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Only a few months passed after the appearance of the first infected in Wuhan (China), so that at the beginning of 2020 the genetic sequence of the virus was established and with it a significant number of investigations emerged aimed at establishing the mechanism used by the virus to infect humans.

Today we know that the fundamental key to the infection mechanism lies in the S protein that makes up the spicules of the coronavirus and that is recognized by the ECA2 receptor present in our cells, in this way the virus enters our body and begins a complex replication process . Understanding all of these mechanisms dazzles human intelligence and is essential to get to the point where we find ourselves today with the production and application of various vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen, AstraZeneca, and Sputnik V.

From the beginning of the pandemic, the hope was to obtain the vaccines that would contribute to solving the health crisis, slowly recovering normality in social life. Despite the fact that this moment seems to be arriving in Colombia, in addition to there being several questions about the effectiveness and forcefulness of the National Vaccination Plan, the question arises about the population groups that were selected in each of the proposed phases.

The effective implementation of the National Vaccination Plan would seem to open the hope to return to the presence in the educational centers of the country, since clearly the pandemic has begun to take its effects on the training of children and young people.

To that extent and in various scenarios, the possibility of implementing a model of presence with alternation has been raised that allows students in basic and secondary education to return gradually and safely to educational institutions. In Bogotá, for example, since February 15, 2021, alternation plans began to be enabled in public and private schools, as well as in higher education. However, despite the long-awaited start of vaccination, the uncertainty about returning to the classroom and the impact it may have on teachers, students and their families is wide. The Colombian Federation of Educators (FECODE) and the District Association of Education Workers (ADE) have repeatedly expressed their rejection of returning to classes in person, due to the risk it implies for the health and lives of the students.

The executive director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, requested in an official statement in December 2020, the governments of the countries, to prioritize teachers in the vaccination process against COVID-19, as this can help protect them against the virus It will allow them to teach in person and will ultimately serve to keep educational institutions open. Countries like Chile have already started their vaccination processes in teachers over 60 years of age.

In Colombia, the vaccination process has begun so far, on February 16 barely 50,000 doses of vaccines arrived for 25,000 citizens. The Vaccination Plan includes five prioritization phases and the teachers of basic and secondary education are in the third, while the university professors are not prioritized in any, which is striking because, like all teachers, in an eventual return to the presence would be permanently exposed to school spaces with a significant flow of people and a good part of the university teaching union is outside the ages that have been prioritized in the first phases. In this sense, what will happen to university professors who have to go back to work and are not vaccinated?

There are no certainties about the course of the process or about the time it will take to cover the first phase, much less reach herd immunity. Meanwhile, educational processes will continue to depend on the possibilities of connectivity, the particular conditions of educational institutions, and the digital and technological resources that students and their families have access to for their training processes.

@LeoMartinezUPN
Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

ANTI-SCIENCE PRESIDENTS AMID THE PANDEMIC

Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic represents one of the greatest challenges that humanity has faced as a species in recent times. The crisis posed by the health emergency, which has been in effect for almost a year, has exacerbated the social gaps and inequalities in the different countries of the world, putting their health systems on the ropes in the fight for patient care and the partial containment of contagion to the rest of the population.

To that extent, governments of different countries, public and private research centers, researchers and academics have made enormous efforts to make available to the population treatments, vaccines and detection, prevention and care plans that allow containing the impact of this disease. The development of prototypes and technological advances for the manufacture of medical supplies and instruments and prevention materials has also been required, not to mention all those fields of research that are not directly related to first-line emergency care, but that have development and innovation required to address situations in different areas due to the pandemic.

In contrast, in an unusual and unusual way, the health emergency has also revealed the rejection of science and scientific evidence by some leaders of the American continent and the world. The pandemic has reflected the dire consequences of these political positions and the risk they imply for the population.

During 2020, it became common to hear about the negligent policies for managing the pandemic promoted by Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Donald Trump in the United States, which prioritized the economy over the health of their population. Trump argued the need to reach November without an economy in ruins, complained to China and the WHO about the conspiracy responsible for the development of the virus despite scientific studies that point to its probable zoonotic origin, and recommended in an irresponsible and dangerous way “Miracle remedies” against the disease, without any scientific evidence and without taking into account the side effects of these substances. For his part, Bolsonaro, in his denialist stance, classified COVID-19 as a “little flu”, fired two health ministers and encouraged demonstrations against confinements, preventing a more appropriate management of the health emergency in Brazil, which he was able to save thousands of lives. The consequences are reflected in the number of fatalities, which in Brazil exceeded 221,000 and in the United States rises to 448,000. An authoritarian tendency is increasingly notorious that disdains reason and enlightened thought that today’s society boasts, arranging arguments and information according to its convenience.

But this way of approaching reality is not new, in 2018 the president of Brazil denied the depredation and deforestation of the Amazon, despite the satellite images that proved it. Similarly, both Bolsonaro and Trump have taken denialist positions on climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to the point that they withdrew the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, to name a few. . These political positions, while incredible at times, are far from harmless.

In an unprecedented situation such as the health emergency we are witnessing today, these political positions are worryingly reminiscent of characteristics of the European fascisms of 80 years ago.

Undoubtedly, the difficult time we are going through as a society and those outbreaks of anti-science denialism pose different challenges for us regarding the reconfiguration of the university-society relationship, beyond training. Universities from our missionary activities, in addition to contributing to the development of ambitious innovation exercises to address social, political, economic and environmental problems, we must also contribute to the understanding of scientific arguments by the bulk of the population, helping to prevent the ignorance and uncertainty of situations such as those we currently face from becoming a political fortress for authoritarian minds and those with a desire for power.

@LeoMartinezUPN
Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

THE EDUCATOR OF EDUCATORS BETS ON THE RENEWAL OF ITS INSTITUTIONAL ACCREDITATION

Within the framework of the university autonomy established by the Political Constitution of Colombia and by the provisions of Law 30 of 1992, public universities have been working in a voluntary exercise to gain recognition of the academic excellence of their missionary commitments to society , after obtaining institutional accreditation. In this sense, the house of teachers and educators in the country, decided to work hard and autonomously in this direction, to demonstrate the advances and improvements that the University has had during the last six years, understanding the accreditation of programs and institutional accreditation as a permanent self-evaluation process aimed at establishing strengths and weaknesses in teaching, research, internationalization, social projection and infrastructure, also identifying its challenges and possibilities to establish improvement actions that allow the University to be academically strengthened.

Since 2014, the National Pedagogical University intensified the laborious process of organizing and systematizing the information necessary to begin the path to institutional accreditation. After hard work, a rigorous self-evaluation process and a favorable concept from academic peers that highlighted, among other things, the broad historical trajectory and social impact of the National Pedagogical University on Colombian education and teacher training , its efforts to maintain a qualified and excellent offer, in accordance with the needs and educational and social contexts of the country, its structured admission process consistent with the nature of the institution, the good performance of its students in standardized tests, its commitment with comprehensive, interdisciplinary and flexible training both in undergraduate and graduate programs and continuing education, and its marked impact on public policies in education; On August 17, 2016, the National Pedagogical University received through Resolution 16715 of the Ministry of National Education, the high quality institutional accreditation for a period of four years.

From there, we have continued to work permanently to improve our quality, through the improvement plans that have been formulated (2014-2018) and the self-evaluation process carried out during 2019. The latter shows notorious favorable transformations that the University has developed, such as the high-quality accreditation of practically all of its undergraduate programs and most of its postgraduate programs, within which the Inter-Institutional Doctorate in Education holds this recognition for 10 years.

The expansion of national and international ties with organizations from different countries in Latin America, North America, Central America and Europe stands out. It also highlights the increase in the scope of these agreements, since they not only contemplate the mobility of teachers and students, but also the internationalization of the curriculum through the development of training programs, diplomas, courses, professional practices, or participation in interuniversity projects linked to the strengthening of internationalization in institutions in Europe and Latin America.

In terms of academic productivity and periodic publications of the University, notable advances were also evidenced with the increase in the publication of articles in national and international journals (indexed or homologated) and of research product books.

Another of the outstanding aspects has to do with the qualitative and quantitative advances regarding the services and supports offered by the Department of Wellbeing to the university community, derived from the implementation of its different programs, since in practically all services between 2014 and in 2018 an average increase of 10% was achieved in the number of people served, services provided or participation in activities.

Among the documented issues, the improvements in the technological resources available to the University today and the large amount of investments made in the improvement of the physical plant, the adaptation of the new Paulo Freire cultural center, the restoration of the Casa de la Vida: Museum of Natural History, the structural interventions and adjustments made in the library, the restaurant, the cafeteria, the swimming pool, the blocks, A, B, C and P, the facilities of the Nogal, National Park and Valmaria. In terms of endowments, significant investments were also made with the acquisition of equipment, software for academic, administrative and research management, furniture and specialized laboratory equipment, computer equipment and instruments.

We invite all teachers and all people interested in education to continue accompanying the National Pedagogical University in the construction of this political and pedagogical project of the Nation.

@LeoMartinezUPN
Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional

 

UPN – A STEP TOWARDS ZERO ENROLMENT

From the beginning of the pandemic generated by the COVID-19 disease, from the State University System (SUE), public universities of the country have put all our scientific, technical, technological and human competences to meet the crisis and thus support the fight against the spread of the virus. From the beginning, we have also expressed our commitment to the health and education authorities to contain the spread of the respiratory virus by promoting individual and collective care measures, keeping the universities in operation and implementing various strategies so that our students could continue with their educational processes at their homes, guaranteeing their integrity and families.

In that regard, we adopted measures to remote work and concluded the first semester of 2020 from academic activities through information and communication technologies –ICTs– enabling the accomplishment of our missionary tasks.

From the beginning of the emergency, we also warned the National Government and the Ministries of Education and Information and Communication Technologies, about the need of the timely efforts in order to raise the required resources in order to meet the data, Internet and computer equipment needs by the students of public universities who have been mostly affected by the pandemic. However, these requirements to a great extent have had to be addressed and met supportively from each of the institutions and university communities despite the financial difficulties faced by students and their families.

In that same line, students, professors, workers and graduates we have been proposing in various scenarios the need for a zero enrollment for all students in our university communities for the second semester of the year since the contexts and the real dynamics resulting from the pandemic have left many people homeless, without means of subsistence and, in many cases, without resources to cover, although subsidized, the values of tuition.

As a result of the different declarations and mobilizations, the National Government created during the emergency the Solidarity Fund for Education, in order to leverage resources to reduce the extent of the effects of the crisis in the education sector, including economic aid for payment of tuition fees for young people in vulnerable status in public higher education institutions. While these resources have been important in helping to 2020-2 zero-enrollment goal at the country’s public universities, they are not enough to guarantee it as a measure covering 100% of the student population; institutions have had to ask for help to district, municipal and departmental entities in order to expand the benefit or, as in the case of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional, raise its own resources for this purpose.

We understand that facing unprecedented times unprecedented measures must be taken. So we once again call on the National Government to make the required efforts and raise enough resources to allow our students and those of all public institutions of higher education to continue their studies in the coming semesters, since as we see the economic recovery will be slow, besides unemployment levels in the country have triggered about 21.4% according to DANE figures for May, and more and more students require support while minimizing the financial power of universities.

In short, we also highlight the need to continue working on generating structural changes in the financing model of public higher education in the country, which continues to be the root and cause of the structural crisis that institutions are currently experiencing and which has been compounded by the pandemic.

@LeoMartinezUPN
Rector of the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional