Namibia’s population consists of about 2.4 million inhabitants. Less than 2% of these consists of the indigenous San tribal group. San youth experience high dropout rates in formal education, high substance abuse as well a high unemployment rate.
The PARTY project with research partnership with Namibia University of Science and Technology staff who are part of the partnering institutions are helping to design services that can contribute to motivating the San youth to improve their self-esteem and co-design services specifically suited to their communities. The PARTY workshops take place in Windhoek.
Some of the youth who participate in the PARTY workshop are from the different San ethnic tribes from the different parts of the country. The Youth tribes include Ju|’hoansi in Tsumkwe East, !Xung in Tsumkwe West, !Xoo, ‘N|oha, Naro from Omaheke South, ≠Xao||ae from Omaheke North, Hai||om from Oshikoto and Khwe from Kavango and Zambezi.
Platfontein is the home of the !Xun and Khwe San of South Africa. Today, approximately over 5000 !Xun and over 2000 Khwe live here. Platfontein is one of the three farms (the other two are named Droogfontein and Wildebeest Kuil) that the San purchased in 1997 through a Trust that was initiated and established by themselves. While on the Wildebeest Kuil farm a small Tourism Centre was established for income generation and the promotion of the rock art to be found on this land, Platfontein, approximately located about 10km outside Kimberley, became the main settlement area for the San.
The !Xun and the Khwe San are not autochthonous to South Africa. The !Xun are originating from Northern Namibia and Southern Angola, whereas the Khwe are from the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, the Okavango Delta Region in Botswana as well as a few also originating from Zambia. The history of these San is a very peculiar and a rather exceptional case. Being first recruited by Portuguese colonial rulers and then by the South African Defense Force (SADF), the San were employed as guards, trackers and soldiers, having fought two wars. Since the escape from their home countries, it took more than a quarter century until they finally found their new home in foreign South Africa – Platfontein.
The Platfontein San form a heterogeneous group and cannot be considered of the same culture. Their languages !Xun and Khwedam are fundamentally distinct from each other and are both still vibrantly spoken, in most cases being the first language, even amongst the younger generation that was born in South Africa. The younger generation however speaks Afrikaans as second language, as formal school education is provided in Afrikaans. The two groups live separated in different areas, albeit right next to each other on the Platfontein farm. In between the two areas a school, a shop, a radio station, a municipal building and a clinic are to be found.
The separated areas of the two groups reflects a social distance between them and even though their languages are an important factor of identity, “the Platfontein San are facing a loss of their former culture on a large scale. Traditional medicine, dances etc. are disappearing, the traditional social order is eroding and lot of the cultural knowledge is not passed to the following generations anymore, but is in danger to die out with the older generation. Moreover, the community is faced with great social and economic problems; a high level of domestic violence, alcoholism, an increasing AIDS rate, illiteracy and poverty, caused by an extremely high level of unemployment. It will require great efforts to preserve the traditional culture and to improve the life conditions of the residents of Platfontein.”
N|uu is the language of the ‡Khomani people in South Africa located in Upington and the southern Kalahari. For decades N|uu was already considered extinct when in the 1990s SASI got involved in the identification of 23 remaining confirmed N|uu speakers. Today, only three sisters still speak N|uu – Hanna Koper, Griet Seekoei and the youngest – Katrina Esau, known as Ouma Geelmeid. They all live in the vicinity of Upington, South Africa. However, today their language of communication is Afrikaans, they only spoke N|uu on a daily basis when they were young.
As a preservation effort, Ouma Geelmeid has for the past 10 years in a small school close to Upington taught N|uu to pre-primary and primary school children. The lessons are based on a reader developed by two linguists of CALDi . It features twelve thematic areas with phrases and sentences derived from everyday conversations, as well as games, prayers and songs, core cultural terms and basic vocabulary .
Nowadays, the language spoken by all ‡Khomani San living in Upington as well as the Southern Kalahari in Northern South Africa is Afrikaans.
For further information:
Centre for African Language Diversity, University of Cape Town. http://www.caldi.uct.ac.za
Shah, Sheena and Brenzinger, Matthias (2016): Ouma Geelmeid ke kx’u ǁxaǁxa Nǀuu – Ouma Geelmeid teaches N|uu. CALDi, Centre for African Language Diversity University of Cape Town. http://open.uct.ac.za/bitstream/handle/11427/17432/Shah_Nǀuu%20_CALDi_2016.pdf?sequence=5
In terms of Youth Development in Platfontein and Upington, there are huge areas of intervention to be identified, discussed and workshopped:
Poverty is the underlying reason provided by both children and adult participants alike on why San school aged children are dropping out-of-school. This is a reality that the San faces- also unemployed youth; but the challenge would not be to go back to school, but rather how to proceed with their own lives.
Lack of role models
There is a serious shortage of local role models in the settlements and this affects the youths who have no one to look up to. It would be an interesting exercise to workshop which roll-models are available, and what influences they do have on the youth.
High direct and indirect costs of schooling
The high direct and indirect cost of schooling was the second reason provided by parents and children during a baseline study as to why school-aged children were not in school. Although this cannot be solved in a workshop scenario, it could be the basis of discussion on HOW strategies can be developed to change this.
Lack of Non-formal and adaptive learning opportunities
formal schools e.g. the !XunKhwesa Combined School in Platfontein) lack
support systems for marginalized San children. This includes
discrimination and stereotyping by some students and teachers.
Emotional Health & Self Esteem
Due (and in correlation to the above), Emotional Health & Self
Esteem levels are low. This has an effect on their ability to ‘think
beyond –or out of – the box’, so to say.
tendency is that there a quite a number of youth who did go through the
School system, passed the grade 12, but are still staying at home post
the School period. Although they are qualified with a basic
qualification, they will rather remain in the community than to move out
and look for opportunities. A general lack in Entrepreneurship and
taking control and responsibility for their own lives are mostly
visible. In terms of Entrepreneurship skills, it should be mentioned
that Career guidance is basically non-existent. This will include
aspects such as seeking information towards careers, looking beyond the
need for a career than rather look into the realistic field of interest,
taking into account which qualifications and skills are available.
Career choises is basically a non-existent concept.
Seventy five kilometres west of Cape Town, South Africa there is a 850 hectare farm called !Khwa ttu. !Khwa ttu means “water-hole” in the language of the now extinct |Xam San. Located within the Cape Floral Kingdom, a recognised World Heritage Site, this remote, rather windy spot, is on its way to becoming the host of an extraordinary and unique museum.
The seed of !Khwa ttu was planted in mid-1999 when Swiss anthropologist Irene Staehelin agreed to form a partnership with a recognised San organisation, the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA) to found an education, Training and Heritage Centre dedicated to the San.
Through WIMSA - the San's regional lobbying and advocacy NGO (Non- Governmental Organisation) San communities throughout the region expressed the desire to learn more about their history, to practice their traditions and to promote their culture and languages. Tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in Southern Africa. San communities have expressed their intention to participate in modern development. Basically, they wish to give their children the chance to revitalise the traditional life supported by tourism revenues, and get the necessary skills to enter the modern workforce and live in dignity.
In 1998, the South African San Institute (SASI) in setting up a tourism and training project, focusing on education and training, income generation, culture, and heritage, assisted WIMSA.
By 2006 !Khwa ttu was ready to welcome its first visitors. Up to then, the like-minded, dedicated team drawn to working alongside Irene had accomplished an extraordinary amount. The land finally chosen was a short drive from Cape Town, easily accessible for the international tourists who were already part of the project’s long-term plan. It was also once part of the vast territory of the !Xam who were rounded up and exterminated in the late 18th century.
!Khwa ttu has four, interwoven, areas of focus:
- Education and training (people)
- Responsible tourism (‘profit’)
- The Environment, both natural and built (planet) and
- Culture and Heritage
1. Education and Training
!Khwa ttu is a place where the San come to teach and be taught. !Khwa ttu’s training is multi-faceted. It runs a seven-month tailored, residential training programme for young San from Southern Africa. The curriculum covers a range of modules from rock art and ethno-botany to life and computer skills, to a HIV and Aids prevention, renewable energy, entrepreneurship to name but a few. Alongside, !Khwa ttu in its entirety, operates as a working exemplar of a thriving, San-focused, tourism business. Trainees are embedded into each of the business units (tourism, hospitality and maintenance) learning practical skills in an enabling environment. This gives them the opportunity to experience and assess the many types of work available in such an operation. In addition to the residential training programme, !Khwa ttu has an Intern Programme. The programme is run over three months. This gives past students and promising applicants the opportunity to move to the next level in their chosen interest area, whether that is working in the busy restaurant, or on the land.
Finally, everyone working on the farm is part of !Khwa ttu’s Training and Skills
Transfer Programme, with customised, regularly reviewed, personal development plans for all staff. Everyone has the chance to experience the challenges of being a mentor, and the pleasures of being mentored. Everyone has the opportunity to try their hand at acquiring new skills in a supportive and safe learning environment. For many, this is their first taste of hope.
2. Responsible Tourism
As a visitor destination !Khwa ttu boasts a busy restaurant, stylish guest houses, open-air tented camps, a beautiful gallery, conference rooms, thrilling mountain bike trails, unique and fascinating cultural tours, and a shop selling hand-crafted fair trade gifts, some of which can be found nowhere else.
These activities not only generate revenue for the organisation, (covering about 50% of the operating costs of the project), they automatically ensure !Khwa ttu is continually measured against external tourism performance benchmarks Trip Advisor is one such benchmark: in 2016, 88% of Trip Advisor reviews rated !Khwa ttu as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’.
3. The Environment – natural and built
In its previous life the farm grew wheat, and was known as Grootwater. Since its purchase, work has progressed steadily to allow the land to heal and repair. !Khwa ttu has partnered with its neighbours and the Cape Biosphere Reserve to clear literally thousands of the pernicious, invasive Port Jackson wattle trees. Slowly the flora and fauna of the unique renosterveldt are returning.
Experts tell us that !Khwa ttu is one of the few places on earth where the extremely rare (possibly extinct) butterfly, Stygionympha Dicksoni, may still exist. The hunt is on to be the first to spot ‘Styg’. There are projects underway, and planned, to reduce the risk of fire, retain precious water in the aquifer, and unlock the opportunities presented by emerging renewable energy technologies both on the farm and in remote, rural communities.
4. Culture and Heritage
Heritage refers to what we inherit, and includes our customs, languages and values. Culture is about the way we live now, and incorporates both how we follow the customs of our heritage and the current way of life in our country, village or community. San culture and heritage lie at the heart of !Khwa ttu’s purpose. The farm’s old cow barn was transformed into a gallery in which a number of powerful and unusual exhibitions have been curated. These have ranged from the art of the Kuru project in Botswana, to, most recently, Paul Weinberg’s moving and powerful photographic exhibition. In the decade since !Khwa ttu opened its gates to its first visitors, much has been done by its dedicated team and their many champions and supporters; much remains to be done.
!Khwa ttu is now in its 19th year of operation. We have co-created a beautiful physical environment and space for San youth to thrive and visitors to have an enjoyable experience. The visit contributes to the ethical standards of tourism, which our organisation strives to uphold.
For further information see https://www.khwattu.org
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 645743