In the !Kung culture, there is no formal education process, at least not as we
understand it. At a young age, children are carried by the mothers as they go
out and gather food. In this way, they are introduced to what edible plants
are available in the land as well as how to set traps for smaller animals. As
they grow, they are given more freedom to play and entertain themselves in the
village.4 This gives them the
chance to see how the village works as well as exposes them to the personal
relationships that are available in the village.
Young boys are given the chance to go out with the older men to utilize the
skills of hunting that they learned through play and stories. Meanwhile, young
women are taken with the older women to gain more knowledge of what food is
needed to supply the village.
Because of the positive light given to the elderly in !Kung culture, the
elderly are available to pass down wisdom and historical knowledge of the !Kung
ways. This helps aid in retaining some amount of their past, even as the
outside world encroaches more and more.
As the !Kung become more influenced by the outside world, children are
starting to gain a more non-native education, including more about Christianity
and the English language.
While not using a formal, Western view of education, the !Kung educational
system is still very important. It serves as a way to pass along the knowledge
of the roles that each person in the village needs to help the village to
survive in the future. In addition, it provides the elderly a job function
after they are unable to actively help in manual activities.
Because of the needs faced by the village, there are no conflicts regarding
the emphasis taken in the !Kung educational systems. The !Kung realize that
the roles that they each take in life are important to the overall success of
everyone in the village.
The education of the !Kung serves to continue to facilitate the roles
imposed on the different gender groups. From a young age, they are exposed to
these gender roles and the reasons that the roles exist. In addition, by
symbolizing the elderly as keepers of knowledge, they provide a reason for the
older age group to still be active in the community.