Il­lit­er­acy in San com­mu­nity a cause for con­cern

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Health/gender/national News - Vusumuzi Dube Sun­day News Re­porter

MORE than 60 per­cent of the San com­mu­nity in the coun­try can nei­ther read nor write with a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of the school-go­ing chil­dren drop­ping out for var­i­ous rea­sons, chief among them be­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion from teach­ers and class­mates.

This comes amid fears that both the lan­guage and cul­ture risk pos­si­ble ex­tinc­tion. The lat­est rev­e­la­tions came out of liveli­hoods, land and hu­man rights report of the San com­mu­nity in the coun­try that was launched in Bu­l­awayo last week.

The re­search was jointly funded by the Uni­ver­sity of Zim­babwe, the In­ter­na­tional Work Group for Indige­nous Af­fairs (IWGIA) and the Open So­ci­ety Ini­tia­tive for South­ern Africa (OSISA).

Sta­tis­tics show that there are 2 000 San peo­ple in Zim­babwe with 457 found in Plumtree, eight in Ma­tobo and 1 165 in Tsholot­sho. Ac­cord­ing to the report, in Tsholot­sho district which has the largest pop­u­la­tion of the San in the coun­try only 39,6 per­cent of the to­tal San house­hold mem­bers were able to read and write.

“Of the 149 house­holds sur­veyed, only nine heads of house­holds con­sid­ered that all the mem­bers of their house­hold over 10-years of age were lit­er­ate, in other words had read­ing or writ­ing skills. This is in con­trast to the high na­tional lit­er­acy rate in Zim­babwe and the 2012 Cen­sus av­er­age rate of 93 per­cent lit­er­acy for Tsholot­sho District.

“Ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment among the San com­mu­nity is low among both adults and chil­dren, and presents a se­ri­ous chal­lenge. More than half of the fe­male re­spon­dents re­ported hav­ing no ed­u­ca­tion, and very few women have ed­u­ca­tion above pri­mary level. Par­ents in­di­cated that their chil­dren were oc­ca­sion­ally dis­crim­i­nated against in schools, and the chil­dren were also some­times sub­jected to bul­ly­ing by their peers and to cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment by teach­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors,” reads the report.

The report stated that the high dropout rate from school, among the San, re­sult­ing in low lev­els of qual­i­fi­ca­tions nec­es­sary for get­ting jobs in the for­mal econ­omy of Zim­babwe.

An­other point of con­cern raised in the report was that just four per­cent of the San both male and fe­male at­tended sec­ondary school, com­pared to the Na­tional Cen­sus fig­ures which put the fig­ure at 31 per­cent.

“Crit­i­cally 41,2 per­cent of chil­dren of a school-go­ing age were re­ported as not at­tend­ing schools. Of those chil­dren who had at­tended school and dropped out, rather than never hav­ing at­tended school, 55 cases were doc­u­mented, in­di­cat­ing the point when the child dropped out.

“These drop out points ranged be­tween Form One and Four, with me­dian of Form Two. A se­lec­tion of pos­si­ble non-at­ten­dance and drop-out causes com­mon to San chil­dren across South­ern Africa were given with the pro­por­tions with more than 50 per­cent an­swer­ing that it was cost re­lated,” reads the report.

In analysing the find­ings, the re­searchers noted that the San had been stereo­typed over the years, with the in­ac­cu­rate no­tion that they re­sisted civil­i­sa­tion hence were not in­ter­ested in at­tain­ing any form of ed­u­ca­tion.

“A com­mon but mis­taken per­cep­tion of San peo­ples in Zim­babwe is that they do not wish to par­tic­i­pate in ed­u­ca­tion and that they “re­sist civil­i­sa­tion”. In fact, most San par­ents we met un­der­stood the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion and en­cour­aged their chil­dren to at­tend school; how­ever, our data in­di­cated that more than half of the school-aged chil­dren were not at­tend­ing school.

“In many cases, par­ents and other adults stated that they want their chil­dren to be ed­u­cated in schools. How­ever, few San raise a sig­nif­i­cant in­come with which to pay school fees, along­side other de­ter­rent is­sues in­clud­ing long dis­tances to schools, so­cial is­sues such as teenage preg­nancy and tru­ancy, and a lack of ap­pro­pri­ate cur­ricu­lums in schools,” reads the report.

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