In 2018, Norway’s Parliament established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine historic policies and activities relating to Indigenous Peoples, including attempts to assimilate them. On 1 June 2023, after five years of work, the commission presented its report, based on interviews with more than 700 people, illustrating very clearly that the wounds are yet to be healed.
Through these testimonies, individuals or small groups have communicated their feelings and experiences relating to the Norwegianization policy and injustice. The most frequent topics that are linked to Norwegianization are language, discrimination, schooling and identity. Therefore, the Norwegian school system has unfortunately played a significant role to carry out the state’s intention to assimilate the Sami and the national minorities, the Kven and the Forest Finn.
In the hearing in Parliament and at the Education Conference organised by the Sami Parliament, the Union of Education Norway shared its concern regarding this painful history and the need to look forward, repair what can be repaired and, most importantly, ensure this never happens again.
In his speech in Parliament in March, the President of the Union of Education Norway, Steffen Handal, started by saying:
In the middle of June, the Sami Parliament invited UEN to address a conference in the North of Norway, to discuss the situation of Sami schools and Sami education today. It is a fact that there is still a lack of Sami teachers and that Sami students do not receive the cultural and language education that they are entitled to, according to the Norwegian Constitution and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (article 29). UEN Executive Board member Thom Jambak stated:
UEN proposes that, among others, the following initiatives are important to strengthen the rights of Sami children and pupils:
- Individual right to enrol in a Sami-language kindergarten or department.
- Statutory right to teaching aids in the three Sami languages.
- Right to training in a Sami-speaking environment.
- Inclusion of Sami language as one of the subjects in the Norwegian teacher training courses.
- Award-winning doctoral scholarships in Sami language and culture.
On 30 August 2023 the union’s Sami Advisory Committee will host a seminar on “Norwegianization and Reconciliation in Early Childhood Education and in Schools”. The Seminar will focus on the current situation and will look ahead. To what extent are the rights of Sami children safeguarded in schools and in early education institutions – for instance when it comes to Sami as language of instruction and teaching material and pedagogical tools in Sami languages? Furthermore, do all children in schools and in early education institutions get to know about Sami languages, history and culture according to the Framework Plan for the Content and Tasks of Kindergartens and curricula in schools? What needs to be done to safeguard these rights and learning objectives?
UEN insists that, since school has been an arena for Norwegianization, school must also serve as an arena for correction. It is important for the Union of Education Norway to contribute to making school a space for revitalizing Indigenous People’s language, the Sami way of life and traditions.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of Education International.