Conference looks at San education in a changing worldBy: CATHERINE SASMAN
A THREE-DAY conference is being held in Windhoek to discuss how San children, as members of one the most marginal groups, are integrated into the educational sector and how a better environment can be created for them and other communities on the fringes of society.
Such education, suggested Unesco Country Representative, Alaphia Wright, should be relevant to their cultural, social and economic aspirations.
In southern Africa, less than one per cent of San children complete school, as school dropout rates continue to be high.
In Namibia, the San remain among the poorest, and in terms of health, education, employment, and other indicators, the San consistently fall at the very bottom of the scale.
Despite only a bare attendance of San delegates at the conference, the UN Resident Coordinator in Namibia, Musinga Bandora, said the San should be involved in decision-making affecting their development, a critical challenge requiring the presence of a coherent institutional framework offering an integrated approached based on participatory development.
“[Educational] approaches must be developed in consultation with communities, and must address their concerns, incorporate their cultures and values, and provide access to the skills that they feel are important to them,” Bandora said.
The Permanent Secretary of Education, Alfred Ilukena, said the ministry is awaiting Cabinet approval of a sector policy on inclusive education.
This policy is geared to ensure education for all through a holistic framework for learning and participation.
Ilukena said it includes children from indigenous groups, including the San.
It is aimed to address barriers within the education system disallowing access; to create an inclusive education sector and expand access to education; institutional support; the diversification of the curriculum and the inculcation for flexible and differentiated teaching and learning approaches; and the engagement of all stakeholders.
Unesco, as one of the organisers of the conference, is involved in a number of educational projects for the San in Namibia with the support of the Education for Children in Need Fund since 2002.
Specific focus is on early-childhood care and education for children from four to six years of age; access and retention of San children in primary education; and support to complete secondary education.
Support is also given to families to create safe and healthy environments for their children.
Eight early-childhood care and education (ECCE) centres have been established with trained caregivers and cooks.
Secondary school pupils are encouraged to form committees or village activators that liaise with Government ministries and agencies, regional councils, civil society organisations, and the communities to develop self-sustaining projects.
Another area is leadership and life skills and gender training.
Unesco’s Wright said vocational skills development and training in leadership and organisational development are important areas of focus too.
“Our experiences with the San students and their communities have been a rich source of learning that has undoubtedly confirmed that educational access means much more than simple physical access to school,” Wright said. “True access includes equitable access to an education that is meaningful.”