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Breaking the barrier of exclusion

Podcast on education and minority and indigenous groups

© UNICEF NYHQ/2009/Pierette James
Maurice Bryan from Minority Rights Group International at the UN Radio studio in New York.

By Pi James

NEW YORK, USA, 30 July 2009 – Worldwide, more than half of the children not attending school are from minority or indigenous populations, according to a report released this month by Minority Rights Group International, in collaboration with UNICEF.

The 2009 edition of the ‘State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples’ report focuses on education. It details how minority and indigenous children have been systematically excluded and discriminated against, or are too poor to afford an education.

To better understand the plight of indigenous students, UN and UNICEF Radio moderator Amy Costello spoke with Mónica Alemán, an indigenous Miskito who grew up in Nicaragua and is now the Executive Director of the International Indigenous Women’s Forum, and Maurice Bryan, a Caribbean-born writer based in Honduras who works with Minority Rights Group International.

Historical discrimination
In the podcast discussion, Mr. Bryan argues that historical discrimination has been denying children from minority and indigenous groups access to quality education, making it more difficult for them to change their lives for the better.

“If you get a good education you can break the cycle [of poverty]. But you cannot get a good education because of discrimination, because of marginalization, and so the cycle just repeats itself from generation to generation,” he says.

Ms. Alemán notes that girls, in particular, face added prejudices that may be based on gender, race, class, sexual orientation or geographical location. “I think that the constant interaction of those elements make the experience for women much worse,” she explains.

Rethinking education
Ms. Alemán goes on to urge a change in society’s concept of education.

“Education does not only happen in the classroom,” she says. “Education happens in the family. Education happens in our streets, in our neighbourhoods, in our society in general.

“Unless we change our culture [to become] more open and more intercultural,” she adds, “we are not really going to achieve the possibility of breaking the barrier of exclusion and discrimination.”

Click here to listen to this UNICEF Radio podcast discussion on education and indigenous and minority groups.




UN and UNICEF Radio moderator Amy Costello speaks to Mónica Alemán from the International Indigenous Women’s Forum and Maurice Bryan from Minority Rights Group International.
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