Education prevents child labour
Education for all , even for indigenous children
One of the most effective means for combating child labour is education. Educated people do not need to send their children to work, and educated children have better chances of avoiding exploitation.
In many countries, indigenous people are lagging behind the educational level of the general population. The rates of enrolment and completion among indigenous children, especially girls, remain low. One main reason for this is poverty. To survive, many families have to send their children to work instead of school, and those lucky enough to go to school often turn up hungry and tired. Another reason is the fact that schools in indigenous areas often are under-funded, of low quality and poorly equipped. They are served by the least-educated teachers, who frequently do not speak the language of the indigenous children, and the curriculum is often discriminatory against expressions of indigenous culture.
Most countries have developed national Education for All (EFA) strategies in order to achieve the objectives set out in the Millennium Development Goals. However, it is clear that these goals will not be achieved unless the specific rights and priorities of indigenous peoples are addressed in the education sector.
Creating new ways of teaching
In order to combat child labour among indigenous children, the development of better educational opportunities is crucial. Education services of good quality and relevant to the particular linguistic and cultural context of the indigenous children must be provided. Around the world, initiatives are being taken to create education that is appropriate to the needs of indigenous children.
In the Philippines, a national consultation recommended that curriculum development should be done with the direct participation of indigenous leaders in order to create an education programme that is innovative and motivational for indigenous children while maintaining their self-respect, dignity and identity. In Guatemala the introduction of bilingual schools in indigenous communities increased school attendance, and in Namibia a Village Schools Project is integrating traditional and culturally appropriate, mother-tongue education with formal education.
The main problems faced by indigenous children in the school system are:
- Poverty, which prevents parents from sending their children to school;
- Difficult access to schools, as indigenous peoples often live in geographically marginalised areas with poor infrastructure;
- Poor educational infrastructure (shortage of classrooms, teachers, books, etc.);
- Education used as a means of assimilation, resulting in discrimination against expressions of indigenous cultures and inadequate curricula and teaching methodologies;
- Monolingual education in non-indigenous languages, accelerating the disappearance of indigenous languages and contributing to low levels of school achievement;
- Cultural, social and economic barriers to the education of girls;
- Health factors constraining learning outcome; and
- Conflict situations, which affect indigenous children disproportionately and in which cultural differences are often mobilised and politicised through the public education system.
In many indigenous societies, the education of the girl child will get low priority compared with that of a boy child. There may be both cultural and economic reasons for this. Girls usually have multiple work tasks within their family and some will never be enrolled or will drop out at an early age, usually to get married.
Others will migrate, even at a very young age, to urban centres and engage in domestic work. Specific approaches and strategies therefore have to be developed in order to reach the girl child and convince their parents of her need for an education.
The right to quality education
Endeavours to increase school enrolment and completion rates among indigenous children have to address a number of challenges: reducing the economic constraints that make it impossible for indigenous parents to send their children to school; increasing the number of schools in indigenous areas and improving them in terms of class rooms, learning materials and teachers; developing special approaches including awareness raising to increase the enrollment of girl children; and addressing health issues such as malnutrition that impact on the learning process.
But, no less important is to ensure that education services are of good quality and relevant to the particular linguistic and cultural context of the indigenous children. Otherwise, there is a risk that mainstream education will repeat the mistakes of decades of education programmes seeking to “educate” and “civilize” children out of their cultures, leading to high levels of school drop outs and psychological stress.
Recognising the centrality of education, Convention No. 169 provides elaborate guidance on the rights of indigenous peoples to education.:
Economic incentive programmes
Improving education quality and relevance
Special education curricula and programmes
Non-formal education systems
Involving the community and the parents
Opportunities within the Education for All (EFA) framework
The right to vocational training
Convention No. 169 on education (articles 26-31)
Shall have the opportunity to acquire education on an equal footing;
Shall be taught to read and write in their own indigenous languages;
Shall have the opportunity to attain fluency in the national languages
Education programmes and services:
Shall be developed and implemented in cooperation with indigenous peoples;
Shall incorporate their histories, knowledge, technologies, value systems and their further social, economic and cultural aspirations
Shall impart general knowledge and skills that help indigenous children to participate fully and on an equal footing in their own and in the national community
Shall contribute to eliminating prejudices among all sections of the national community
Shall be trained and be involved in the formulation and implementation of education programmes
Shall be allowed to establish their own education institutions