The Role of Technical and Vocational Education in Social Reintegration: Insights from Colombian Ex-Combatants
Reintegration programs for ex-combatants around the globe promote their technical and vocational education and training (TVET). The aim is to help them develop skills, assume new social roles, and gain community acceptance, yet the experiences and perceptions of the ex-combatants who participate in these programs have been little explored. Thus, it is not known whether this group finds access to TVET useful in building new social networks, which is a critical factor in preventing further violence and achieving social cohesion. This in-depth interview study with female and male ex-combatants from Medellín, Colombia, who are at various stages of TVET engagement examined their perceptions of whether and how TVET contributed to their social reintegration. The findings illustrate that some forms of TVET promoted psychosocial recovery and build social bonds, whereas other types reinforced isolation and segregation. This study also found that the TVET programs overlooked the ex-combatants’ limitations on socializing that were imposed by their violent environments and feelings of stigmatization. These findings suggest a need to complement education programs for economic development with approaches that help develop social bonds and trust between ex-combatants and their communities.