Inclusive Approaches to School Counseling: Arguing for Culturally-Responsive Psycho-Social Support for Learners From Indigenous Communities

Inclusive Approaches to School Counseling: Arguing for Culturally-Responsive Psycho-Social Support for Learners From Indigenous Communities

Cynthy K. Haihambo (University of Namibia, Namibia)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0319-5.ch001
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At the core of the education system in Namibia lies the philosophical underpinning of inclusivity and its underlying principle of equal participation. Thus, to exclude any individual or societal group, directly or indirectly, from participation in education is tantamount to violating the primary meaning of democracy as it pertains to education. This assertion is consistent with the United Nation's SDG 4, which strives at ensuring “Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education and Promote Lifelong Opportunities for All,” and SDG 16, which is aimed to provide “Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.” Two ethnic groups in Namibia, the Ovahimba and the San, are regarded as marginalized, and this marginalization cuts across all spheres of their lives. This research-informed chapter provides an insight into experiences of children from indigenous communities in schools. It further presents an argument for culturally responsive approaches to counseling for learners from indigenous communities.
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This study was situated within Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Towards the end of the chapter, suggestions are made for culturally responsive counseling to support the inclusion of children by helping them deal with institutions of stigmatization and discrimination in schools and establish resilience, while fostering the transformation of institutions. The desired outcome of culturally responsive counseling is to help children understand why they are treated in certain ways and build their resilience, while creating schools in which all children feel welcome, irrespective of their cultural backgrounds.

In Namibia, ethnic minority populations are regarded marginalized on the basis of their lifestyles which set them at the margin of what many regard as development, using economic variables as indicators for this so-called development. The Ovahimba own and value cattle; maintain semi-nomadic lifestyles, maintain unique traditional dress codes and kept their original cultural practices with limited western influence. Cattle-rearing, an activity mostly performed by children under parental supervision, is an important part of their culture. The San, who are regarded as the First peoples in Southern Africa, do not believe in property possession. Their family systems are their property. They were highly nomadic and depended on nature for survival. Now they are forced by conservation laws and by-laws to limit hunting and the harvesting natural resources, they had to adapt to being more stationed, rendering them vulnerable to influences of mainstream society to whom they are dependent for their day to day needs. Some of their traditional skills, such as hunting, collecting veld food, tracking, healing people) have become redundant in modern times. Other skills of the San people are under-valued in terms of monetary compensation. In order for them to be absorbed in the labor market and maintain an average living standard, they need education. According to Article 20 of the Namibian Constitution, (1990) education is a basic human right as stated in; Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1990; the Dakar Framework for Action,1990; UN Sustainable Development Goals, 2015). To this end, many nations over the globe used education as a tool to overcome challenges such as poverty, diseases, inequality, and social injustices. Therefore, exclusion of the indigenous communities is tantamount to intentionally marginalizing them and purporting their poverty.

In Dakar, a commitment was made to the pursue of broad-based strategies for achieving learning needs for all through expanding and improving early childhood education, especially for the marginalized and most vulnerable; ensuring that all children have access to and complete free primary education; offering of equitable access to learning for both children and adults, eliminating gender disparities and improving the quality of education, especially recognized and measurable learning outcomes (UNESCO, 2000, p. 15).

The qualitative, multiple case-study research that informs this chapter was conducted in piece meals over a period of five years, from 2012 -2017. This chapter discusses the realities of the lives of children from marginalized Ovahimba and San communities and their consequent psycho-social support needs.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Equity: Equity in education is a process of levelling the play field to ensure that every child has an equal chance for success, irrespective of the complexities of their lives. That requires understanding the unique challenges and barriers faced by individual learners or by vulnerable groups with a likelihood to miss out on education due to barriers they face. It requires that schools provide additional support to help them overcome those barriers.

Psycho-Social Support: Psychosocial support is a method of responding to psycho-social factors posing barriers to learning and development of human beings. It helps individuals and communities to heal the psychological wounds and rebuild social structures following an event or systemic traumatic experiences. In the Namibian education system, school counseling is one method of psycho-social support built into the curriculum, with teachers who receive basic training to render such counseling.

Ovahimba: The Himba are an ethnic group of nomadic pastoralists who inhabit the Kaokoland area of the Kunene Region of Namibia.

Resilience: Resilience is a skill that enables human beings to cope in spite of setbacks, or barriers, or limited resources. Young people are strengthened and capacitated to bounce back after traumatic events.

Diversity: It is an understanding and acknowledgement that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.

Democracy: Democracy is one of the key pillars or the Namibian education system. Democracy in education means involving learners, on a regular basis and in developmentally appropriate ways, in shared decision making that increases their responsibility for shaping and reshaping the education landscape in order to make it a good place to be and learn.

Stigmatization: It is the discriminating process of ascribing shame and humiliation to an individual on the basis of the diversity they present. In Namibia, many children from indigenous communities experience various forms of stigma in schools because of their appearance, language or lack of resources.

Marginalized Communities: In general terms, marginalized communities are communities confined to the lower or peripheral edge of the society. Such a group is denied involvement in mainstream economic, political, cultural and social activities due to their living conditions, lifestyles or exclusion. In Namibia, the Ovahimba and San communities are among those regarded as marginalized communities.

Inclusive Education: Inclusive education means that all learners should attend and be welcomed by their neighborhood schools in age-appropriate, regular classes and are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of the life of the school. Such schools should respond to the needs of all learners and render support to enable them to succeed, both academically and socially.

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