Photo: Alejandro Parellada / IWGIA ©
This year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is devoted to the right to education. At IWGIA we think it is a good opportunity to reflect on how the education gap between indigenous peoples and mainstream populations affects indigenous peoples’ lives. Therefore we would like to share with you the main challenges that they encounter for fully enjoying the right to quality education, which are rooted in the limitation to establish and control their own education systems.
Indigenous educational deficits range from generalized exclusion to limited access and remain critical for rates of enrolment, retention, completion of and performance at primary school level and gender disparities. Even though education has shown the most progress out of all the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), indigenous peoples still lag far behind when it comes to fully enjoying the right to formal education.
Which factors explain their educational marginalization?
There are many interlinking factors which come to play in the access to quality education for indigenous peoples, among these are poverty (child labour), ethnicity (social stigma and institutionalized discrimination), language barrier, gender-based discrimination, traditional practices (including early marriage) and a lack of access to basic services due to their geographical isolation. Other factors that limit their right to education can be the following:
• Lack of or deficient school infrastructure
• Lack of mobile schools and/or culturally-adequate boarding facilities for nomadic and semi-nomadic indigenous children
• Financial burden imposed by tuition fees and indirect costs of education (material, uniforms, school meals, transport, etc)
• Lack of qualified bilingual teachers and learning materials written in the learner’s mother tongue
• Poor learning conditions and unsafe school environments
• Militarisation in indigenous territories which not only disturbs a daily learning cycle, but also instills fear and affects children’s education
All in all, formal school systems rarely reflect the realities of indigenous livelihoods or traditional educational systems. This leads to children facing traumatic school experiences, such as; being separated from their families and living in unfriendly boarding schools, being socially stigmatized and abused by other fellow pupils, learning foreign systems of knowledge in a language other than their own and being taught by teachers from other cultures - often dominant - from their own. One of IWGIA’s books published together with UNICEF, “Teen suicide: Three case studies” (only available in Spanish and Portuguese), reflects on the loss of identity and school maladjustment as important factors in the high rate of substance abuse and suicide among indigenous youths.
Indigenous children at an Asháninka school in Peru's Central Jungle. Photo: Alejandro Parellada / IWGIA ©
How to protect the right to education? Legal foundations and IWGIA’s work
Education was established as a fundamental human right in 1948 by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Specifically, indigenous peoples’ educational rights have been stipulated by the ILO Convention No. 169 in 1989, The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) also in 1989 and the United Nations Declarations in the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007. It was also confirmed by the Fourth World Congress of Education International in 2004, the Preparatory Meeting for the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples -Alta Outcome Document- in 2013 and the Lima Declaration of the World Conference of indigenous Women in 2013.
IWGIA, its partners and network of experts have addressed the issue of education for indigenous peoples in different ways. Both through focusing specifically on the right to education - and through empowering indigenous peoples by equipping them with the skills and knowledge that will ensure long-term recognition of and respect for their collective and individual human rights.
IWGIA has been and is involved with different projects related to ensuring the right to education. Here are some examples:
Monitoring the right to education
• In 2015 IWGIA has been actively engaged in creating a tool called theIndigenous Navigator, which will allow indigenous peoples to systematically monitor the level of recognition and implementation of their rights. This monitoring tool has been pilot tested in 6 countries and IWGIA is currently contributing to the development of an European Union program aimed at increasing indigenous peoples’ access to education.
Influencing the international agenda
• IWGIA has been very active in pushing for the inclusion of indigenous peoples’ rights and agenda in the Post 2015 Development Process. In collaboration with Tebtebba, IWGIA has developed briefing notes and specially one on the topic of education. (You can access the Briefing Note here)
Providing high level education
• IWGIA supports high level education on indigenous peoples’ rights in different universities, including an annual intensive course at the University of Pretoria in South Africa and a 2 years Master Degree Program on Indigenous Rights and Development at the University “Gabriel René Moreno” in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
Education among the youth in different regions
• IWGIA supports and work collaboratively with in the production of radio programs for Radio Encuentros with Servindi, Ojo de Agua Comunicación, Desafío y Unión Diaguita in Peru, Mexico, Bolivia and Argentina. The aim is to strengthen the role of young people by training them in the use of media and audiovisual production.
• In the Philippines, IWGIA’s partner, Coordillera Peoples Alliance for the Defense of the Ancestral Domain and for Self Determination (CPA), has been supporting the Igorot people’s youth whose land has been home to a violent conflict between government forces and communist insurgent groups for more than 40 years.
• In Malaysia, IWGIA’s partner, Partners of Community Organisations Trust (PACOS) has established community preschool that incorporates indigenous children’s language and culture. The preschools are run by trained indigenous pre-school teachers from the community.
• In Kenya, the Samburu Women Trust (SWT), the Ogiek Peoples Development Programme (OPDP) and Mainyoito Pastoralists Integrated Development Organization (Mpido) have supported the improvement of girl child enrolment and retention in schools through financial support and targeted advocacy campaigns in close collaboration with school committees, teachers, the Ministry of Education and local leaders.
• In Tanzania, IWGIA’s partner Parakuiyo Pastoralist Indigenous Community Development Organization (PAICODEO) supports indigenous girls to access secondary education, leadership training and participation in discussions affecting the Maasai community.
Moving forward in the recognition of indigenous people’s rights
At the international level, 2015 has shown concerted efforts of indigenous peoples’ representatives resulting in several noteworthy achievements even though all expectations were not fulfilled. As IWGIA’s Year Book “The Indigenous World 2016” points out, the outcome documents of the two most important UN events (the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit and the Conference of Parties -COP21- of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change -UNFCCC) mentioned indigenous peoples in their operational guidelines and recommended States Parties to obtain the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples when nominating sites for World Heritage listing. Another positive development was the decision taken by the UN Secretary General and the President of the UN General Assembly to follow up on the implementation of the Outcome Document of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples by drafting a system-wide action plan with inputs from indigenous peoples. On this backdrop and as a general trend, IWGIA is happy to also see the development of national alliances among the indigenous community in order to strengthen their advocacy work.
A day of celebration that also calls on the States’ responsibilities
For the education right to be fully implemented recognition is not enough. The States must base their education goals, targets and indicators within a rights-based approach that ensures equal access to good-quality education and aims to mitigate the historical and structural causes of inequality. National legislation must ensure multiculturalism, ethnic diversity and acknowledge indigenous values and culture.
It is also the States’ responsibility to establish methods and systems for the collection of disaggregated data and develop indicators in line with international human rights standards. As an overarching goal, the States must firmly aim at eliminating discrimination and stigmatization of indigenous peoples within the formal education system.
IWGIA congratulates all the partners in their day and warmly greets indigenous peoples around the world !
We hope you can celebrate this day by sharing their challenges and our work with contacts that may find this information useful to promote change in the field of education.
Copyright © 2016, International Workgroup for Indigenous Affairs.