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The ‡Khomani Bushmen of the Kalahari

The people now known as Bushmen or San were the original inhabitants of southern Africa. They lived all over the subcontinents as hunter gatherers, and have left a treasure trove of rock paintings and rock engravings in many different regions.  Sadly, they were heavily persecuted and today, their bulk of their population is found mainly in Namibia and Botswana, with smaller communities in South Africa, Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The ‡Khomani  Bushmen have lived for generations in what today we call the Northern Cape Province. Persecuted and dispossessed under colonialism and Apartheid, only in recent years has hope returned to their community.

Drakensberg Adventures has recently established relations with the ‡Khomani, and hope to provide increasing support as time goes by. Here is their story in excerpts from their website:


When the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park was proclaimed during the 1930’s, the livelihoods and freedom of movement of some of South Africa’s last remaining first peoples, the Khomani San - Bushmen as they call themselves, were curtailed.

LAND CLAIM

In 1995 the ‡Khomani  lodged a claim for the restitution of 400,000 ha of land in the Kalahari Gemsbok Park.  After years of negotiation and verification, the claim was finally settled on 21st March 1999. At a moving ceremony attended by hundreds of San people as well as the world's media, then President Thabo Mbeki signed a Land Claim settlement agreement transferring the title deeds of six Kalahari farms (approximately 36,000 ha) to the ‡Khomani San Communal Property Association. In addition, some 25,000 ha within the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park to be managed as a Contractual National Park was committed to the ownership of the community.

As with the Bushmen all over southern Africa, the community faced persecution, severe racism and neglect, and many elders lived lives of misery and extreme hardship. Whilst they have now received land in compensation for their claim to 400 000 hectares in the Kalagadi Transfrontier Park, the challenge remains to turn the situation around and address the many socio-economic problems that their community faces. These problems include extreme poverty and malnutrition, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS and TB, low literacy levels and poor education, limited government support to the community and a lack of service provision.

The provision of services to this relatively remote area is slow and the community has been severely neglected by all arms of government.  There is extremely limited access to education, health care, the justice system, to shops and a food supply, no water on the farms, housing remains inadequate, a lack of income generating opportunities, and a lack of infrastructure including that for communication results in the physical and virtual isolation of this community with little access to information and the outside world. Racial discrimination remains rife in this area and this perpetuates the status quo and the sense of disempowerment that the Bushman community, both adults and children, experience.  

EDUCATION

Drakensberg Adventures has chosen to build our relationship with the Khomani by supporting educational projects.

BACKGROUND

  • At least 200 ‡Khomani children are disadvantaged by poor or no schooling.

  • A lack of education and life skills means that the people are poorly equipped to cope with the situation that they find themselves in.

  • The nearest government junior school is 25km away and the nearest senior school over 100km.

  • These schools are not sensitive to Bushman culture, or special needs children. The junior school leaves children very ill equipped to enter into the better senior schools in Upington (220 km) or elsewhere.

  • Many of the children from more traditional families do not attend school at all as the culture in the government school does not cater to their unique needs.

Until recently, learners needed to travel over 25 kilometres to the nearest primary school. Thus there was a desperate need for a local ‡Khomani school (primary at first, secondary to follow) that ensures that the children of the community are able to receive a quality education that is tailor-made to suit the unique ‡Khomani  world-view and educational needs. An appropriately designed curriculum and educational method that do not work to erase their traditional cultural understanding and way of thinking, but rather to support it, is needed if important elements of their ancient traditions and culture are to survive into the modern age. Establishing a Primary School where children can receive culturally sensitive good education will enable them to enter senior school well equipped to succeed. Young people will have a chance to engage with tertiary education which would uplift the community on all levels.

UNIQUE KNOWLEDGE AND WORLD-VIEW

The Bushmen developed a unique knowledge of nature, the land, the plants and their healing properties. If this knowledge is not nurtured it will be lost to present and future generations.  Much traditional knowledge has already been lost and as the elders fail to pass this knowledge on to the youth and are themselves approaching death, there is a very real chance that what is now left of this knowledge may be lost forever.

THE CURRENT SITUATION AND WHERE DRAKENSBERG ADVENTURES COMES IN

The setting up and operating of a school dedicated to the ‡Khomani community, providing an accessible, culturally sensitive primary school education to their children has happened. The new school, called Eland School, opened in January 2016 in mobile classrooms. The aim is to add a class each year. Currently, grades 1 and 2 children attend the new school, older children still have attend a normal government primary school in the area. Most of these children come from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds, where their parents did not attend school and are not able to assist their children at all in terms of Western “formal” education.  

Drakensberg Adventures is proud to be part of this project. The funds raised by our “levy” will be towards the payment of a special teacher at the school, Dia Vaalbooi. Dia’s grandmother was one of only a handful of people identified some 20 years ago by linguists who could still speak the Bushman language of N!u. While N!u was the original language used by the Bushmen of the southern Kalahari area, today most ‡Khomani Bushmen speak either Afrikaans or Nama or both. Dia learnt N!u from her grandmother, and together with a lexicon produced by the linguists in the 1990’s, she is now able to teach N!u to the children in the dedicated ‡Khomani school. We are proud that our rock art walks are allowing the past to make a contribution towards rescuing an ancient Bushman language from extinction.
Our latest initiative has been to support ‡Khomani crafters by including in the tour price for the guided hike the value of a small craft item made by ‡Khomani crafters in the Kalahari. With the kind assistance of the ‡Khomani owned Xaus Lodge, run on their behalf by Fair Trade in Tourism certified company Transfrontier Parks Destinations, we made contact with the crafters, agreed on the product which they then make and Xaus Lodge arranges for them to be sent to us here to be given out to those doing the “in the Footsteps of the Bushmen” guided day hike. This guarantees the crafters a certain amount of business per year. We hope to also sell some of their products in our craft shop.

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As the project hopefully grows and thrives, the ultimate aim is to have a fully functional school within the community.

If anyone would like to make contributions over and above the amount included in the tour price, such donations would be most welcome. They would initially be put towards expanding the “Bushman” educative sessions, but would ultimately go towards the setting up of the school itself.

For more information about the ‡Khomani community, its development project and its very exciting tourism opportunities, visit their website at www.khomanisan.com

Transfrontier Parks destinations https://www.tfpd.co.za/destinations


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Sani Lodge | Phone +27 (0)33 7020330 | Cell +27 (0)839873071 | Fax +27 (0)86 5147915
E Mail info@sanilodge.co.za

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