Implementing the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development in Southern Africa

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the global community in 2015 highlight the need for environmental education. There is growing international recognition of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as an integral element of quality education and a key enabler for sustainable development. Target 4.7 of SDG 4 on education addresses ESD and related approaches such as Global Citizenship Education.

The outcome document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012, “The Future We Want” agreed to “promote education for sustainable development and to integrate sustainable development more actively into education beyond the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development” (UNDESD). A decision was taken to develop a coherent Global Action Programme (GAP) to scale-up presence and significance of ESD internationally and nationally.

The 2014 UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (10-12 November 2014, Aichi-Nagoya, Japan) marked the end of the UN Decade of ESD. The conference saw the launch of the Aichi-Nagoya Declaration on ESD and of the Roadmap for implementing the Global Action Programme on ESD. In addition, the 10-year Framework of Programmes (10YFP) on Sustainable Lifestyles and Education (SLE), to which UNESCO contributes, was also launched at the World Conference on ESD. The Global Action Programme (GAP), acknowledged by UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/69/211, focuses on five priority action areas, considered as key leverage points to advance ESD: advancing policy; transforming learning and training environments; building capacities of educators and trainers; empowering and mobilizing youth; and accelerating sustainable solutions at local level.

UNESCO coordinates the implementation of the Global Action Programme and closely works with key partners to generate and scale-up ESD action. UNESCO aims to improve access to quality education on sustainable development at all levels and in all social contexts, to transform society by reorienting education and help people develop knowledge, skills, values and behaviours needed for sustainable development.

Regional Interventions

The Southern Africa region has been championing ESD implementation on the continent since the DESD. It continues to play a major role in the rollout of the GAP. Such active participation of the region is evidenced in Zimbabwe’s Sihlengeni Primary School being among the three winners of the 2017 UNESCO-Japan Prize on ESD. Sihlengeni Primary School, located in a dry rural area of Matabeleland South Province of Zimbabwe, was selected for its “Permaculture” programme, which uses the principles of ESD to provide quality primary education as well as increased access to a clean environment, food and water. Given this great achievement, UNESCO ROSA organized an appreciation event from 14-15 February 2018 at its premises in Harare, which also launched the 2018 edition of the ESD Prize. About 80 participants attended this event, while over 100 delegates attended the celebrations at the premises of Sihlengeni Primary School. Such success stories in ESD, that center around the involvement of young people, are the driving force for sustainable development.

UNESCO ROSA has conducted both national and regional consultations on ESD in the member countries in southern Africa. A regional meeting was held in August 2015 in Harare where governments and other stakeholders agreed on the common strategic action points, which continue to guide support to member states in the region. Key actions in this regard are the JFIT sponsored project on environmental scan on the practice of ESD in the region. Based on the environmental scan, an ESD training course with five action areas on “Sustainability Starts with Teachers” was designed. The project focuses on the training of secondary teacher educators who initiated exemplary ESD change projects that model best practices for ESD in the SADC region and beyond. At least 40 out of the 60 trained secondary teacher educators have implemented change projects after receiving these trainings in 2017 to bring about transformation at the institutional and community levels. A final workshop was organized in Johannesburg in March 2018 to share these good practices and lessons learned with key stakeholders (policy makers and practitioners from the region and beyond). As a follow up, interventions at other levels of teacher education are being planned for the near future.

UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences (SHS) unit conducted trainings and a symposium in 2016 and 2017 to strengthen the capacity of city authorities and other practitioners to use planning processes to tackle challenges related to sustainable development at the local level.


ESD in Teacher Education Institutions: Case Studies of Best Practices in Zambia

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