Coastal region and small island papers 20
COMMUNITIES IN ACTION: SHARING THE EXPERIENCES

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   5. EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

‘I consider myself very fortunate in that I capitalize on my 34 years of experience as a teacher. Within this period I was able to build up a high level of confidence among parents and community. I discovered that children love getting out of the classroom and out in the open air. Students are a pool of manpower – we work together! I did this to a large extent as an individual, but now other teachers have come on board. The key is making people happy and comfortable with what they are doing. We are now receiving requests from other schools to get involved. We have begun a mentorship programme – I have taken on an environmental club on the other side of the island – helping write a constitution, designing programmes. They are now taking on the activities we initially did here.’ Herman Belmar, Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines


Sandwatch students restoring a coastal waterway in Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, April 2005

Education for sustainable development (ESD) is a dynamic concept that seeks to empower people of all ages to assume responsibility for creating and enjoying a sustainable future.

Background to Education for Sustainable Development

Ms. Aline Bory Adams, Education Sector, UNESCO, Paris, in her presentation described how the concept of sustainable development had emerged over the past two decades and how the decade of education for sustainable development (2005-2014) had come about. Among the challenges facing islands are how to capitalise and move beyond the lessons learnt from environmental education and how to reach all stakeholders.

Discussion:

  • There is a need to integrate education for sustainable development concepts across the curriculum and not to have it as a separate subject
  • Revising school curricula may be a difficult and lengthy process; while in some islands such as San Andres, the curriculum has been revised to include topics and subjects related to education for sustainable development, in other islands it may be sufficient to get the teachers to embrace the concepts of education for sustainable development
  • While schools and teachers are very important in education for sustainable development, since they influence youth and through them their parents, civil society outreach is equally important
  • Small Islands Voice may provide a structure and framework whereby civil society can help communities to develop sustainable practices
  • Live and Learn Environmental Education is using environment and related issues as vehicles to promote education for sustainable development, e.g. in the Solomon Islands, teaching water issues to address the problems of downstream pollution
  • Drama and theatre are also important ways to convey particular messages

Small Islands Developing States Universities Consortium

Mr. Joeli Veitayaki, Marine Studies Programme, University of the South Pacific, Fiji, in his presentation described the background and objectives of this newly established consortium, which aims to enhance the capacity of tertiary institutions in small islands so that by sharing programmes, research and expertise they can better address the sustainable development needs of small islands.

Discussion:

  • While the Universities Consortium is a good initiative, there is a need to involve civil society in the process and perhaps Small Islands Voice could form a bridge between the community/general public and the academic community
  • Proposals are being considered for a partnership between the Universities Consortium and the UNESCO-UNITWIN programme
  • Within the framework of the Universities Consortium student exchange programmes are already underway

Sandwatch

Ms. Gillian Cambers, Sea Grant College Program, University of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, in her presentation, outlined Sandwatch as an educational approach to sustainable development.  For some years, school students in Caribbean islands had been monitoring their beaches and then undertaking small projects, with the help of their teachers, parents and communities, to address sustainable development issues and enhance the beach environment.  In the future it is planned to expand the Sandwatch approach to include many schools in each island, to integrate the activities into the curriculum, and to link up with other environmental watches e.g. River Care in the Pacific.

Discussion:

  • Sandwatch started in a ‘pilot’ mode and has been successful, and it has now reached the stage of expanding beyond one or two schools in each island
  • In Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sandwatch has become well known within the community, partly as a result of a locally produced video that was aired several times on local television.  Now the Sandwatch team are often called on to give advice on environmental problems
  • The success of Sandwatch depends to a large extent on teacher interest
  • Successful approaches such as Sandwatch have to be linked to educational policy and the curriculum
  • Sandwatch may become a flagship project during the decade of education for sustainable development

Small Islands Voice – Youth Internet Forum

Ms. Gillian Cambers, Sea Grant College Program, University of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico, in her presentation, outlined the background to the Small Islands Voice Youth Internet Forum, which has been running since 2002.  A recent assessment of the forum by Ms. Darcy Nugent, a research student at San Jose University, USA, indicated that specific aspects of the forum needed addressing, namely: more interaction between teachers; a more structured approach to the forum in terms of timing, content and themes; separation of primary and secondary student discussions.

Mr. Hans Thulstrup, UNESCO Office for the Pacific States, Samoa, described a partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNESCO for the development of information and communication technology in Niue, a small Pacific island which has suffered significant depopulation in recent years.  In his presentation, he outlined how the Small Islands Voice Youth Internet Forum could provide a framework for youth in Niue to exchange ideas and information with other island youth and to become part of the global information age, as well as building confidence, and human and social capital in their island. Such partnerships as this one with UNDP are vital to ensure the sustainability of Small Islands Voice activities in the future.

Country feedback:

  • Seychelles: The forum has been beneficial allowing students to learn about life in other islands; it was incorporated into information technology classes and English, usually as an extra activity; most of the responses have been class rather than individual efforts; disadvantages have included the long wait between postings especially during holiday and exam times; students presently involved are graduating, so new students would take part in the future; the forum motivated the exchange visits with students in the Maldives; Seychelles would like to see the forum continue and for UNESCO to provide a framework that can be discussed with the new group of students
  • St. Kitts and Nevis: The forum should continue; needs to be restructured and made more user friendly; youth like to have access to instant messaging and to include photos and graphics; need to investigate incentives such as scholarships and exchanges; and the forum needs to have a specific time frame; many youth in St. Kitts and Nevis have internet in their homes
  • St. Vincent and the Grenadines: The forum should continue but it needs to have a specific time framework; computers with internet connections will be set up in the school and students assigned different days to use them for educational purposes; certificates could act as an incentive for the students; making the forum more user-friendly and attractive to youth is important
  • Mauritius: Not all islands are on an equal footing with new technology and it is necessary that the forum should be accessible to those with minimal technology and connections; the forum could be a mechanism to translate sustainable development to the youth level, since most 16-18 year olds know very little about such issues
  • San Andres Archipelago: The forum should continue; most schools are Spanish speaking and many students felt shy about expressing themselves in English, however, now there is an initiative to revive English as a language; also it is planned to have native island schools participate; incentives such as certificates and prizes should be investigated
  • Cook Islands: There is a significant difference between the Caribbean and Pacific regions in terms of information and communication technology; internet access costs are very high in the Pacific; there is also a need to teach computer maintenance; curriculum subjects need to be built into the forum
  • Fiji: The forum should be promoted as a tool for teachers that furthers the curriculum work; the forum has the potential for developing critical thinking skills
  • Palau: The forum is conducted mainly in English, this could be viewed as ‘elitist’ in Palau
  • Maldives: The forum has been conducted mainly on a voluntary basis and through environmental clubs; the main problem has been with language; primary schools would not be able to cope with just English text
  • Cuba: The forum needs to be more user friendly and with an annual agenda
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