In this episode of Beyond School Books, a distinguished panel discusses realizing the right of indigenous peoples to education that is appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.
NEW YORK, 10 June 2013 – Of the 370 million indigenous people in the world, approximately 67 million are youth. Know Your Rights! – the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) written specifically for indigenous adolescents – is aiming to do exactly that: encourage young people to know their rights, protect them and become an active part of decision-making in their community.
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The right of indigenous peoples to education that is appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning has been recognized and protected since the adoption of UNDRIP in 2007. Almost seven years later, to what degree is this right realized?
In this Beyond School Books episode, podcast moderator Rachel Bonham Carter talked to Grand Chief Edward John, North American Representative to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; Gabriele Papa, a senior high school student and secretary of the Salamanca High School Model United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; and Krysta Williams, Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator for the Native Youth Sexual Health Network.
Achieving equity in education
According to Grand Chief Edward John, even though it is a fundamental right, education is not always available to indigenous communities. “In some places, we have education at a very minimum standard, for housekeeping or labour, and some instances just enough education to continue the master-slave relationship which we have seen and heard of in parts of the world,” he said.
He believes that following standards as defended by UNDRIP is imperative in achieving equity in education. “Those standards are not new, by any means, but they… provide a framework for all of us to be able to live with and to ensure that state parties and UN agencies do their bit to provide the necessary commitment, political will and resources to realize and improve standards in education,” he added.
Including cultural elements
Ms. Papa said that her community members support education, but including cultural elements in curricula hasn’t been easy. “The [cultural] class has been threatened before to be gone, and it’s really important for us that it is still there,” she said. “We want to expand, we want more classes, we want more ways to learn about our culture. We want to learn about all the things that are not taught in school, the bad things that happened and the good things.” According to Ms. Papa, Salamanca High School is the only school in the reservation that has a cultural teacher.
Ms. Williams agreed and pointed out the benefits not only of including culture in the curriculum but also applying it as a learning method. “If we are talking about issues of literacy, we go beyond the written word and think about visual – but what about our theatres, what about our traditional indigenous ways of crafting and doing arts?” she said. “Think about how we can go further about educating people about the human rights, the declaration of the rights of the indigenous peoples specifically using a huge variety of art-based methods that are quite effective in any area of education.”
Story by Rudina Vojvoda