International Day of Indigenous Persons, 2016 message

International Day of Indigenous Persons, 2016.

Indigenous People’s Right to Education, Respecting the Past and Moving Forward in Social Cohesion.

 Today the Commonwealth Youth Council has joined hands with the global community to observe the International Day of Indigenous Persons. Not only do we recognize the silent voices of the indigenous population but also advocate and represent indigenous youth as equal partners for development and their participation at the Pan-Commonwealth level through the Office of Special Interest Groups.

Contributed by: David A.S. Rupa (Special Interest Group Representative of the Commonwealth Youth Council)

As today’s theme focuses on the Rights to Education of Indigenous people, we stand in solidarity for our youth who are included in this social group, raising the volume of an Inclusive Education to all member states to prioritize for Sustainable Development Goal number 4 (four) which is to ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations. We regard Education as a method of Reconciliation and a pathway to Social Cohesion as a solution to conflicts that have eventuated in the history books of our indigenous societies. However, this unfortunately has also escaped through the cracks of the fabrics of our governing systems, institutions and down to the grassroots communities which exists trails of inequalities such as racism either through social interaction in public, social media, through publications or social services; stigmatization, language barrier, and exclusion of educating indigenous populations are all gaps that exist as challenges for young indigenous people.

Statistics released by UN show that there are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries who make up less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures. Also it reports that the education sector is a particular arena that not only mirrors and condenses the historical abuses, discrimination and marginalization suffered by indigenous peoples, but also reflects their continued struggle for equality and respect for their rights as peoples and as individuals.

Barriers to education for indigenous students include stigmatization of indigenous identity and low self- esteem of indigenous learners; discriminatory and racist attitudes in the school environment, including in textbooks and materials and among non-indigenous students and teachers; language barriers between indigenous learners and teachers; inadequate resources and low prioritization of education for indigenous peoples, reflected in poorly trained teachers as well as lack of textbooks and resources.

Despite our challenges young people in the Commonwealth are continuously seeking and taking opportunities to build a peaceful and an inclusive world. Moving towards global citizenship, having shared values and restoring community efforts in their own capacities ensuring mutual understanding and respect for each other are key priorities. We view Education as a method of Reconciliation as the pathway to Creating an Inclusive and a united Society.


The Commonwealth Youth Council appreciates that reconciliation and social cohesion includes respecting the past challenges of cruelty towards indigenous populations during development and colonialism has shaped our generation to be responsible to move development forward.  We believe that young people are key to promoting equality and unity. Mutual understanding and respect are key values in the process of mapping out a sustainable future for us.

 We take this opportunity to call on all member states and actors to continue to seek ways to increase capacity to encourage and recognize the need for an Inclusive Education for Indigenous populations through dialogue and collaborative action.

We call for the review of school curriculum and include topics of history, culture, citizenship, diversity, language and religion that promote reconciliation and social cohesion. We call on all actors through Private Public Partnerships to build young people for development and implementation of sustainable and inclusive Education policies and programs.

We wish to continue to advocate for the rights and freedoms of Indigenous youth in the Commonwealth, and to advocate for peace and unity in the Commonwealth, based on the Commonwealth values of democracy, development and diversity.

The Commonwealth Youth Council recognises that educational outcomes for young people are directly related to the amount member states invest in quality education; and further endorse the recommendations by the United Nations call for:

  • Efforts be made in ensuring the access to education for indigenous people that is culturally and linguistically appropriate and that does not aim at or result in unwanted assimilation.
  • Instruction in the mother-tongue language recommended for indigenous children, youth and adults. Where indigenous language is not the mother language revitalization programmes be integrated into the education system.
  • Efforts of giving special priority to indigenous women and girls ensuring that they have access to and benefit from education.
  • Second chance, vocational training and adult literacy education programmes are an important element of inclusive education with many long-lasting benefits for indigenous peoples.

 “Solutions will not be found while Indigenous people are treated as victims for whom someone else must find solutions” MALCOLM FRASER.


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