Thursday, September 3, 2009

Minority Rights Group International, in association with UNICEF, recently published its annual State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2009 report, with a special focus on Education. MRG found that 101 million of children who are out of school worldwide come from minority or indigenous groups. The group argues for the need to protect and promote the right to education for all people, and highlights the varied and significant challenges facing minority and indigenous populations in individual nations. The report has been heralded as the first comprehensive study of the state of education for minorities and indigenous populations around the globe.

The Batwa pygmies of the Great Lakes region figure prominently throughout the report. In Rwanda, the MRG argues that the Rwandan government's current refusal to recognize different ethnic identities, while understandable in light of the country's past, leads to "ongoing exclusion" of the historically marginalized Batwa. According to the report, Rwanda currently boasts the highest primary net enrollment ratio in the region (92% in 2004), yet the government's education strategies fail to mention the Batwa. As a result, Batwa children, in addition to facing ample discrimination, are not receiving education that properly addresses the needs inherited from their inequality.

The members of COPHAD's pilot village have long cited discrimination as a deterrent to accessing education, health care, and other government services. When a family works hard to purchase the uniform and shoes necessary to send a child to school, it would be nice to know that this child will receive the best possible education. Hopefully, the report by the MRG is a step towards greater awareness and consideration of the educational needs of the Batwa, whose future rests on the prosperity and enrichment of its children.

Interested to learn more? Read MRG's 2008 publication, The Right to Learn: Batwa Education in the Great Lakes Region of Africa (Click 'download' on the sidebar).

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