BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Colombian pop star Shakira is known for her musical hits, ranging from “Wherever, Whenever,” “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa),” and “Hips Don’t Lie”. However, Shakira has also made a name for herself outside of music as a philanthropist. As recently as March 28, 2017, Shakira announced plans to construct a new school in her native town of Barranquilla, located at the northern tip of Colombia. The school intends to open sometime during 2019 as the seventh school Shakira built since the creation of her charity foundation Pies Descalazo, or “Barefoot,” in 1997. This charity has the overall goal of creating better education in Colombia.
The origins of the Pies Descalazo Foundation are rooted in the early successes of Shakira’s musical career. After garnering attention in 1996 for her third recorded album “Pies Descalazo” that sold three million copies, Shakira saw an opportunity to use her newfound stardom as a platform to begin a career in activism. Since the beginning of the Pies Descalazo Foundation, Shakira has flourished in an array of accomplishments with education in Colombia; UNICEF named Shakira the Goodwill Ambassador in 2003, and she helped found the Latin America in Solidarity Action in 2006.
The basis of the Pies Descalazo Foundation stems from its five core principles. The organization’s website states its top five goals are to “provide quality and public education, improve the nutrition of our children, promote personal growth and sustainable development, building top-notch schooling infrastructures and finally establishing supported schools as community centers via ‘Open door school strategy'”. Since its founding, the Pies Descalazo Foundation has helped more than 10,000 children and 67,000 young adults.
When asked about the work done by the charity, Shakira states, “We built schools where the government was absent, and thousands of children did not have access to quality education. The transformation was immediate – jobs were generated, malnutrition plummeted, and the students responded well academically.”
Among the Pies Descalazo Foundation’s biggest achievements is its consistent effort towards improving education in Colombia. Enhancing education in Colombia stands as the emphasized goal of the foundation, exhibited through the development of six schools.
One of the schools the Pies Descalazo Foundation built is called the Lomas del Peye, Cartagena school. The foundation created Lomas del Peye, Cartenga to provide educational opportunities for children in Colombia. The school has 1,373 students and 43 teachers, along with 49 available classrooms for kindergarten, elementary, secondary and technical training.
Another school founded through the Pies Descalazo Foundation is the Educational Institution of Pies Descalazo’s Foundation La Playa Township. In 2009, the institution opened as a public school with the capacity to hold up to 1,347 students. It also offers two rooms dedicated to art, two vocational classrooms, six computer labs and four science labs, coming to a total of 32 classrooms overall. With the success of building an education-friendly environment with 67 teachers on staff, the institution had the best Saber 11 scores in Colombia and was named the best official educational institute in all of Colombia.
Shakira was not shy to show her excitement of the school’s accomplishment; posting to Instagram she stated, “Sending a big kiss to all the students there. I love you guys and let’s aim for more.”
The Pies Descalazo continues striving to strengthen the notion of education as a birthright opposed to a privilege. The foundation also strives for the development of strong community support links. With the help of Shakira and the Pies Descalazo Foundation, the development of a seventh school is in the future. Education in Colombia is as important as education anywhere else.
– Patrick Greeley