By Вen Li
The challanges of providing basic education and possible solutions were explored at the G6B forum on Education held Sun., June 23.
Canada’s concerns lie with aboriginal education.
“A lot of our people have gone through a lot of traumatic experiences with education,” said aboriginal educator and U of C Senator Doreen Spence. “Historically, formal education was, without exception, assimilationist. The primary purpose of formal education was to indoctrinate aboriginal people into a Christian world view, thereby ‘civilizing’ us.”
While efforts like the recently closed Calgary Plains Indians Cultural Survival Schoolare were somewhat successful, traditional educational infrastructure for aboriginals is lacking, according to Spence.
“The majority of aboriginals do not complete high school,” she said, noting many native reserves lack schools to provide secondary education. “They leave the school system without prerequisite skills for employment, they leave without knowledge and language of their culture or people. Indigenous young people are falling through the cracks.”
Systematic problems also concern Frema Osei-Opare, a director of ACTIONAID Ghana, a non-governmental humanitarian organization. She said formal education can be modeled after efforts to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“We all appreciate the Uganda government’s steps to reduce HIV/AIDS,” she said. “We know a lot of it had to do with political will, particularly the leadership of the president himself. I would also like to add the success is also due to a strong civil society involvement, particularly the peasants infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.”
Osei-Opare suggested a combination of government and civil action to educate the youth of Ghana, the majority living in rural areas.
“Political will is very important in breaking the ice but that is an important role for all to play,” she said. “Part of the effort should be to educate people at the community level.”
In addition to such grass-roots efforts, Osei-Opare is also interested in ways of producing educators through post-secondary education in the region.
Senior Advocacy Officer for Oxfam International Oliver Buston shared concerns about higher education. He criticized the role of some governments who receive foreign aid for education.
“Governments aren’t able to absorb additional resources because their bureaucracies are ineffective,” he said. “It is difficult institutionally to expand the higher education system in a short span of time.”
Buston said more can be done now to educate youth.
“The whole argument about capacity is a big, red herring,” he said. “If you really want to rapidly expand the scale of the education system, it is possible. But you don’t wait for capacity to be built and only then start the education. You start as the system is building up.”
Buston also criticized conditional aid where a majority of the donated funds are to be spent on goods and services from the donor country.
Gender issues were also raised at the forum. Rasheda Choudhury, CEO of the Campaign for Popular Education operating out of Bangladesh, is involved with women’s issues and spoke about primary education in her country.
“One of the success stories we have is bringing in girls and gender balance to schools,” she said. “Seventy per cent of them live below the poverty line and with the challenges of military rule, acquiring uniforms and materials, it’s good to see that we are going somewhere.”