Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: The right to education.

Juliet Education in Kenya

Image credit: United Nations

Image credit: United Nations

Today marks this years’ International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (9 August). Today’s theme is devoted to indigenous peoples’ Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples: The right to education., given the persistent gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous students in terms of access to education, school retention and graduation rates in all regions of the world.

In Kenya, the indigenous communities are slowly becoming extinct and they are constantly endangered by displacements and other socio-economic factors like lack of access to proper education. Some of these indigenous communities in Kenya are the Ogyek of Mau Forest, the Endorois of Baringo, the Maasais and the Turkana communities. Most of them are hunters, gatherers, and pastoralists, who depend on their environment for survival.

Without a proper education, these communities can never learn their basic rights or even the proper way to preserve their lifeline- their environment. Education therefore plays an important role in ensuring the preservation of these communities, even their cultures.

Some of their cultural artifacts are becoming extinct due to the death of the custodians of their culture. This is because most of the African Native cultures were transmitted down the generations through folk lore- word of mouth from the griots (old people who were custodians of the culture). No wonder some of the languages are becoming extinct.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called upon Governments everywhere to improve access to education for indigenous peoples and to reflect their experiences and culture in places of learning. “Let us commit to ensuring indigenous peoples are not left behind as we pursue the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals”, he added.

According to the upcoming report on the State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, Volume III, on Education, in Nunavut, the northernmost territory in Canada, Inuit high-school graduation rates are well below average, and only 40 per cent of all school-age indigenous children are attending school full time. In Australia, participation of indigenous 15-19 year-olds in higher education was 60 per cent in 2013, well below the 80 per cent participation for all Australians in the same age group. In Latin America and the Caribbean, on average, 85 per cent of indigenous children attend secondary education, but only 40 per cent complete that level of education.

In Africa, these numbers are probably way lower considering the distinction between the developed and developing countries.

The right of indigenous peoples to education is protected by Article 14 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which, among other things, states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.” Further, the UN Declaration provides the right for indigenous peoples to all levels of education within the State without discrimination. The right of indigenous peoples to education is also recognized by a number of other international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples. However, the 2030 Agenda does not include indicators on mother-tongue language education, an area that indigenous peoples have been lobbying for. There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in some 90 countries around the world.

Experts recommend efforts to ensure that indigenous peoples have access to education that is culturally and linguistically appropriate, with special priority given to indigenous women and girls as well as second-chance, vocational training and adult literacy programs.

Featured image credit.