Kampala Statement Regarding Children’s Ethnobiological Knowledge and Education

At the just ended 15th Congress of the International Society of Ethnobiology held at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda (1-7 August 2016), the session’s organizers and participants came up with the following recommendations for improved education planning and practice with regard to children’s rights in different cultural settings.

The Kampala Statement was adopted by the congress participants at the closing ceremony on
7 August 2016. “Transmission of knowledge — whether academic or traditional — is a complex process where children (ranging from early childhood to adolescence) take an active part in acquiring, reshaping and reformulating the culture of the society in which they live.

Nobody contests the importance of formal education to be provided by state educational
bodies in national official language to the children populations of Indigenous Peoples,
Traditional Societies and Local Communities (hereafter called IPTSLCs). Nevertheless, both
ethnobiologists and IPTSLCs recognize the crucial need to pursue the acquisition of local
knowledge by children and to encourage the practice of their mother tongues that are vital
carriers of the cultural diversity of each country. Any attempt to replace one education system
by the other is counterproductive in essence and will inevitably penalize the personal
development of IPTSLC children, as well as impair the fate of local knowledge and related
cultural heritage. Children should not be forced to choose between having access to formal
education versus being the gatekeepers of local knowledge. They would instead gain in
benefiting from both systems.

Based on the foregoing, the following recommendations are made:

1. There is an urgent need to put an end to the classical opposition between formal and
informal education.

2. There is an urgent need to admit that formal schooling is not the only means for the
acquisition of valid and valuable life skills and knowledge.

3. There is an urgent need to consider the paramount value of horizontal transmission among
children as a means to preserve a corpus of local knowledge that adults no longer possess.

4. There is an urgent need to rethink communication and foster mutual respect between those
who are in charge of teaching academic knowledge (teaching staff and state academic bodies)
and those who hold local knowledge within the various IPTSLCs in order to strengthen the
complementarity and synergies between the two educational systems.

5. There is an urgent need to acknowledge that children are accomplished household actors as
resource providers and keepers. Their contribution to the domestic economy elicits an
undeniable expertise that mediates their interactions with their natural and social environment.

6. There is an urgent need to stop considering children just as adults inpreparation: they
engage actively with their surrounding world. Children’s perceptions, knowledge and practices
should be better understood and incorporated into international and state policies.

7. There is an urgent need to assess the involvement of children in the domestic economy on a
culturally-specific basis.

8. There is an urgent need to recognize the difference between children’s contribution to the
domestic economy and child labour. The reinforcement of international children’s rights mechanisms and the eradication of child-forced labour are an absolute and uncontested
necessity. Nevertheless, these rights should not be reinforced at the expense of the integrity of
the domestic economy and of the local expertise that is in the exclusive hands of children.

Emerging from the above recommendations, there is an urgent need to foster research on
children’s ethnobiological knowledge and to encourage aspiring ethnobiologists to further
explore this overlooked issue.

Together keeping continuity from our roots”

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