San childhood development under spotlight

14 June 2018 | Social Issues

Among a multitude of hurdles faced by San communities in Namibia in accessing education, health and other basic services are the humiliating and discriminatory treatment experienced at the hand of service providers.

Findings in a recently launched report that assessed integrated early childhood development programmes among San communities indicate that while the delivery of integrated early childhood development (IECD) among the San is gathering momentum, many barriers remain.

“A relatively high number of San children are not accessing some of the early childhood development (ECD) services currently available, particularly those provided by ECD centres.”

Barriers cited by study participants include extreme poverty, long distances and inability to afford decent clothing for children, lack of nutritional support at ECD centres, and a limited awareness of the importance of the full range of ECD services in addition to alcohol abuse.

The report also highlighted that accessing healthcare, child grants and birth registrations are hindered by discriminatory attitudes towards the San, poor quality of services, language barriers, and travel and service costs.

In 2011, 58% of San children were not attending school and only 6% of eligible San children attended secondary school. Of those who started in Grade 1, only 1% complete their schooling, with the majority of San children dropping out before the end of the primary phase.

“This lack of education perpetuates cycles of poverty and inequality, and continues to see low levels of representation in civic engagement and governance,” a statement released at last week's consultative meeting and the launch on the report noted.

The report further highlighted that lack of mother-tongue instruction, limited capacity of educators, inadequate and substandard ECD facilities and infrastructure and failure to adhere to the ECD curriculum and guidelines compromise the quality of early learning in these marginalised communities.

None of the ECD centres visited during the research had any learning material in San languages, and a majority of teachers indicated they had not completed the required minimum 12 weeks of training in ECD.



Alarm bells

IECD services that were taken under the loop during the research for the report, included health, education, nutritional support, child care, protection and birth registration services. The report noted that the most “alarming findings were related to access of services. Specifically health services, child protection services including child grants, civil registration services, police and domestic violence assistance and social services including access to government subsidised food parcels.”

Among the issues that hinder access to services, participants complained that some health workers “insisted on using English, knowing that the patient did not understand this language, and cases of health workers shouting at San patients and humiliating them. Such maltreatment was said to lead to a lack of trust in the services and reluctance to seek health care.”

A number of health facilities are described in the report as “beset by poor staff attitudes, lack of standard operating procedures, and disregard for procedures and opening hours, with limited accountability.”

There were also complaints that “clients from other socio-economic groups” frequently received preferential treatment.

Another issue identified found that while San communities are aware of the availability of social protection services as well as the importance of national documentation such as birth certificates, multiple barriers prevent access.

Access to child grants is impeded amongst other issues by delayed pay-outs, abuse of grants by caregivers, poor customer services and bad attitude by staff with “lack of accountability.”

Moreover, disability care among families with children with disabilities is nearly non-existent and cases where parents were sent home by medical staff and told “the children are well”, were reported.

Research also found that none of the early childhood development centres attended by San had any specialist services to cater children with disabilities.

Key recommendations based on the findings in the report include the need to train San high school graduates to be integrated into ECD centres, community, outreach and other services in their communities.

Moreover, that educator allowances should be “paid regularly and timeously” in addition to reviewing allowances taking inflation into consideration.

Another recommendation is investment in renovating and developing ECD infrastructure and to scale up and expand its educator training programme with a focus on marginalised communities.

Interventions should be harmonised “to ensure consistency in the provision of nutritional support to communities, including ECD centres as an intervention point.”

A number of other recommendations are included in the report.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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