Namibia played host to a conference that was organised to try and seek alternatives that can integrate San/Basarwa children into the education system.
The conference, held under the theme: Indigenous Education in a Changing World, was co-hosted by UNESCO, the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA) and the Open Society Initiative for South Africa (OSISA).
It is reported that only 67 percent of San children in Namibia enrol in schools and only 1 percent of those children complete secondary school. None of them make it to university.
Dr Jennifer Hays, an anthropologist, told the conference that the major challenge lies in the fact that education systems, content and provision is being managed by people who are not San and who have no appreciation for what it means to be San and to be forced to live in a world that is foreign and a world apart from the life you know.
“Right from the first day at school, San children have to contend with a myriad of challenges; from a culture and language shock to unprecedented levels of discrimination by both teachers and fellow learners, bullying, economic barriers and the long distances walked to get to the school. These are some of the key barriers that keep San children away from school,” Dr Hays is quoted as saying in the Namibian media.
One of the participants, Xhawaa Qubi, a Naro speaker from Botswana, told the conference that “when the education system was put in place, all our children received a twelve year sentence to learn a foreign language and a foreign way of life”.
Several proposals were put forward, including integrating San culture and indigenous knowledge into education: using local language (mother tongue) at least in the first four years of schooling:
removing all economic barriers to education like school fees: promoting inclusive education policies and addressing bullying and discrimination in schools. There is also a general consensus that most of these interventions fail to address the issue of San children and their education and it is believed this is due to the fact that there is very little, if any, involvement of the San themselves when such interventions are developed.