Each year, the world celebrates the International Day for World’s Indigenous Peoples
on 9 August. While it is an occasion to celebrate cultural diversity in all forms, it is also, as Global March member Education International points out, an important opportunity to lobby for full respect of all human rights, including those of indigenous people, particularly in relation to the following topics:
- The disappearance of many native and indigenous languages due to poor implementation of mother tongue public education programmes or a lack of curricula materials.
- Persistence of age-old discriminatory practices and emergence of new forms of exclusion, including the relevance of addressing development needs of indigenous people.
- Discriminatory practices against indigenous children affecting their access to good quality education.
- Lack of free, prior and informed consent on development initiatives and projects in the traditional lands and livelihoods of indigenous people.
In addition, the Global March has always expressed its concern at the particular vulnerability of indigenous children to situations of child labour. There is significant documented evidence of indigenous children in child labour in different parts of the world, including from the International Labour Organization’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (ILO-IPEC). Speaking on 9 August 2010, Global March Chair Mr Kailash Satyarthi said:
“It is vital that particular attention is paid to the situation of indigenous communities and their children. These communities are all too often marginalised by society and face significant discrimination in accessing a broad range of services to which they should be entitled, especially education, and also health, social protection and other basic services. They are often located in rural or remote areas which further exacerbates the situation. We need to offer greater protection to indigenous children and ensure that they too can benefit from education for all and avoid exploitation of their labour.”
Education International points out that it is indisputable that progress has been made towards achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the year 2015. However, as the UN Review Summit on the MDGSs, to be held in New York from 20-22 September 2010, draws closer, the realisation of the two goals on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and achieving universal primary education, are likely to be unattainable for indigenous peoples. Indeed, there is increasing evidence that indigenous peoples are generally largely overlooked in this global development framework. The 2010 UN Permanent Forum desk study on the MDGs shows that the rates of poverty among indigenous peoples are much higher than the national or non-indigenous rates in developed and developing countries. Indigenous peoples remain amongst the poorest of the poor, with little reference made to them in the reports on the implementation of the MDGs.
And challenges in education are not limited to indigenous children, but also to indigenous teachers and education workers. A recent study, entitled A Study of Aboriginal Teachers’ Professional Knowledge and Experience in Canadian Schools, undertaken by EI affiliate the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), shows that Aboriginal teachers encounter a variety of adverse circumstances in their work, such as “the misunderstandings of Aboriginal education by their colleagues”. Nevertheless, despite the challenging social and political conditions in schools and the communities or the effects of poverty on students, Aboriginal teachers remain committed to making a difference in education.
EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, pointed out that: “Cutting back on public spending, particularly in education, affects the historical and ongoing denial of the human rights of indigenous peoples. Education is essential for the exercise of all other human rights. There is no excuse for the lack of progress in education, the heart of the EFA process and the MDGs.”
As discussions on EFA and MDGs are high on the international agenda in coming months, EI has called on education unions to seize the opportunity to urge their governments and the international community to ensure that public policies also benefit indigenous peoples and that their rights are lifted to meet international standards. Local and regional policies, as well as pledges made by heads of state at United Nations meetings must also be followed through. Global March fully supports this call by EI at such a critical juncture in the MDG process.
Turning attention to the forthcoming MDG Summit, Mr Satyarthi sent out the following reminder:
“The Roadmap to achieve the ILO goal of eliminating the worst forms of child labour by 2016, unanimously acclaimed by the participants of the Global Conference on Child Labour in The Hague in May, includes a reference to the need to include child labour in international policy and development frameworks and indicators. Now is the time for the voice of teachers’ unions, trade unions and civil society organisations to be heard as we call for the inclusion of child labour in the MDG indicators. Without a specific indicator, child labour will never be effectively mainstreamed into the MDG process.”
To download a copy of the CTF study in English, click here.
To download a copy of the CTF study in French, click here.