Education hope for Namibia's first nation peoples

August 6, 1999

The San (Bushmen), who have lived in Namibia for more than 11,000 years, are among the world's oldest surviving hunter-gatherers.

Despite the strides that have been made in Namibian education since independence in 1990, the San's involvement remains insignificant. Their school attendance is poor in a country where nearly 100 per cent of the white population attend but as little as 16 per cent of other groups take part.

No San are known to have received a university education, and there are no San teachers in Namibia's schools.

But since 1995, 20 San have been helped to undertake primary and secondary education by a project led by Namibia's ministry of basic education and culture and supported by the London-based Royal Over-Seas League. Now several San students are approaching the point when a university education is a possibility.

Peter Katjavivi, vice-chancellor of the University of Namibia, said: "We hope that by 2001 there will be two to five San students at the university. This is a deliberate policy we are promoting because we do not have even one San at this level now. They will have to compete with other students, but we are making an extra effort. If they do not pass with adequate grades, we will put them through a foundation programme.

"We cannot simply hope for an ideal student - we have to go out of our way to facilitate access to education for a community that has been devastated by being deprived of real access to social advancement."

The hope is that when they complete teacher education courses, the San will return to teach in schools on the edge of the Kalahari desert, where they will act as role models.

Professor Katjavivi said: "The zeal oozing from every corner of this land for education and training compels the university to extend its plea to every possible source of funding Namibians are a courageous people who had to endure the bitter brutality and atrocities of the liberation struggle. Many were left out of the mainstream economy, education and decent life, and many are still left out due to lack of education."

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