Dancing Skeletons: Life And Death In West Africa

1717 words - 7 pages

Although the !Kung San of southern Africa differ greatly from the people in the west African nation of Mali, both areas share similar problems. Both suffer from diseases, illnesses, malnutrition, and having to adapt to the ever changing and advancing cultures around them. What I found to be the most significant problem that is shared between both areas is that the people suffered from a lack of education. In the book Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa by Katherine A. Dettwyler, there is a lack of education in proper nutritional practices, taking care of children and newborns, and basic medical knowledge and practices. The Dobe Ju/’hoansi have recently started putting in schools to help children receive an education to help them have better success with the surrounding peoples and culture, but there is a lack of attendance in these schools. There are also many education issues in proper sexual practices that would help stop the spread of HIV and AIDS, in a place in the world were theses illnesses are at surprisingly high levels.
The first part of this paper will discuss the education problems in the Dobe Ju/’hoansi with their school systems. There are also many divergent views about educating the public in sexual health practice, and the use of protection in general. This section will also cover the education problem in Mali related to poor nutritional and medical knowledge. The second part of the paper will cover differing views between western society and the native point of view in both the Dobe Ju/’hoansi and the people of Mali. The last part of the paper discusses some solution-oriented recommendations to the education problems and some of the steps that have already begun to take place to help improve conditions and educational systems.
In the case of the Dobe Ju/’hoansi they are faced with the problem of having to constantly adapt to the outside culture that is quickly closing in around them. In 1968, the Botswaa government announced plans to build the first primary school at !Kangwa believing that a school could help the children learn the local language and how to be better adapted to the towns and culture around them (Lee 2003:162). However, when the school finally opened no one enrolled. Parents complained that the tuition (at $4.50 per year) along with the price of the mandatory school uniform was too expensive . Even those who could pay still had to find ways to afford soap to keep the clothes clean, while still feeding their families. The school was also located in an area were very heavy drinking took place and many parents were concerned with sending their children to school in such an infamous area. The most substantial conflict was that, “the Ju children were forbidden to speak their own language on school grounds, and no attempt was made in the curriculum to value Ju’/hoan culture and heritage (Lee 2003:163).” These ethnocentric policies would not allow children to speak or learn about their culture and...

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