Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education #WeAreIndigenous
On International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the Commonwealth Youth Council expresses its support for indigenous youth and the right to education. Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals continues to be a priority and we call on all Member States to ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for all. Today we shine a light on the continuing struggle but as youth we know the answer lies within our reach so we also shine a light on the young people providing the solutions.
There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries. They make up less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures. As distinct peoples, indigenous peoples have developed their own knowledge systems, values, institutions, practices and economies, often based on sustainable management of natural resources. Likewise, indigenous peoples have their own cultural methods of transmitting knowledge.
Indigenous people continue to face barriers to education such as stigmatization of indigenous identity and low self-esteem of indigenous learners; discriminatory and racist attitudes in the school environment, including in textbooks and materials and among non-indigenous students and teachers; language barriers between indigenous learners and teachers; inadequate resources and low prioritization of education for indigenous peoples, reflected in poorly trained teachers as well as lack of textbooks and resources.
Many regions of the world lack the dis-aggregated data that could reveal the accurate situation of discrimination and marginalization of indigenous peoples. However, where data exist, they show consistent and persistent disparities between the indigenous and the non-indigenous population in terms of educational access, retention and achievement, in all regions of the world.
In Nunavut, 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
The Commonwealth Youth Council recently met up with Jesse Slok, a 21 years old Gamilaraay man from Tamworth NSW and in his 4th year at the Macquarie University. He is the most active with Bawurra and with the Indigenous student body of Macquarie University. He pointed us to the statistics that they have managed to collect in Australia:
78% of Aboriginal students are at or above the national minimum standard in Year 3 reading & numeracy in 2015 whilst non-Aboriginal students are at 95.5%.
18% of Aboriginal students failed to reach the national minimum reading and writing standard in 2015. The percentage for non- Aboriginal students is 6%.
20% of the gap in performance between indigenous and non-indigenous 15 year olds is explained by relatively poor school attendance among indigenous students.
Jesse, Alex and Bawurra Foundation
Jesse tells us about the Bawurra Foundation. It is a not-for-profit organisation helping improve literacy ability in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children by preserving culturally relevant information and distributing it to schools. Their recent initiative is the Bawurra library, a digital library that allows schools they work with to access indigenous knowledge and stories from around Australia.
Jesse, an indigenous youth, continues to tell us about his involvement. Throughout High School he was a part of a government project named the ‘Digital Elders project’ that aimed to record elders’ stories and history, and have that information added to the state syllabus. After entering University he joined a mentoring programme that would provide mentoring services for ‘at risk’ indigenous school students and encourage them to continue through to tertiary education. As an indigenous representative of Dunmore Lang college he is helping create a new indigenous community within the college, and have been working with the Dean and Principal to organise events aimed at engaging both students and elders. Now with Bawurra he is focussed on the preservation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and culture and education of indigenous students. They are creating relationships and engaging elders to ensure that knowledge such as language, stories and traditions are not lost. This is a serious problems as much as indigenous Australia’s culture and history has been built upon and shared via word-of-mouth. We are also working with museums and academics to help make important cultural information more easily accessible.
CYC also recently met with another co-founder of Bawurra, Alexander Stonyer-Dubinovsky, although not an indigenous youth, has committed and is passionate about equality and a fair chance for indigenous youth. For the last two years Alexander has been working to find a solution to the under performance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait children in literacy. Alongside Jesse and Andres Aronsohn they’ve devised a programme that combines culturally significant stories sourced from indigenous communities with hand-held e-book technology, which is donated to schools with large indigenous student populations. The team have recently entered their first two schools, Boggabilla Central School and Toomelah Public School, and are aiming to expand nationally by the end of 2016. The work was recognised by Her Majesty The Queen at an award ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
Show them support or donate to this noble cause: