UNESCO estimates that indigenous peoples make up five percent of the world’s population, but they often face the threat of losing their cultural identity.
Learning World looks at projects aiming to preserve indigenous languages and traditions in New Zealand, Bolivia and Ethiopia.
Maori Immersion School, New Zealand
The first Maori Immersion School was set up 26 years ago to teach indigenous children in New Zealand about their traditional heritage by things like re-writing songs using Maori words. It is a teaching method that is not often used in mainstream schools, but singing is central to Maori culture.
Thirty years ago, the school only had a primary section but parents and teachers decided to create a section for older children too. Parents are still very involved in the running of the school. All subjects are taught in Maori, but pupils are also fluent in English, because many of them do not speak Maori at home.
Irihapeti was one of the first pupils at the school and now she is a teacher there, her three daughters are also pupils. Today there are around 70 Maori Immersion Schools in New Zealand.
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The Inca Heritage, Bolivia
In the Andean region of Bolivia, the Indigenous University is dedicated to preserving and promoting the country’s indigenous heritage. There are courses available in highland agronomy, industrial food production, veterinary science and textiles.
The university has 800 students and the courses are taught in local languages as well as in English and Spanish – and best of all they are free.
The university aims to produce qualified indigenous professionals with leadership skills. Students come from organisations all over the country, and it is hoped they will take their new knowledge back into their communities. There are now three universities in Bolivia dedicated to indigenous culture.
For more information see:
The Forest School, Ethiopia
Deep inside an Ethiopian forest, 50 kilometres west of the capital Addis Ababa, modern teenagers are learning about their traditional culture from tribal elders.
The sessions are organised by the NGO ‘Melca’ which aims to reconnect Ethiopian youngsters with their cultural identity.
The organisation hopes that by getting students into the forest they will be more willing to open their minds to ancient traditions. The young people on the programme are encouraged to meditate and to reflect on their lives – many of them come from troubled backgrounds. They discuss their thoughts in group sessions. The programme stresses the importance of respecting elders and their knowledge.
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