Advancing water education for Africa’s young generations
The 8th Africa Water Week (AWW8) and the 6th Africa Conference on Sanitation and Hygiene (AfriSan6) joined together as the Africa Water and Sanitation Week (AWSW) are institutionalized platforms to discuss and collectively seek solutions to Africa’s water and sanitation challenges. The Africa Water Week event is held biennially and the theme for this year was “Water Security for Development and Human Health”. The conference was virtually convened by the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) in conjunction with the African Union Commission with other development partners from 22 to 26 November 2021.
UNESCO convened a session on Future-proofing the African young generations for water and climate: the educational side during the eighth Africa Water Week on the 24 November 2021 under the sub-theme “Addressing Water and Sanitation sector enablers and drivers: policy, capacity development, knowledge management, financing among others”.
This session aimed to advance public understanding of water and hydrological sciences for addressing water issues. It also identified gaps and exchanged views on good practices and lessons for delivering water education under different contexts across Africa. Other co-conveners of the session included China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research (IWHR), African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) and the International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research (IAHR).
Welcoming remarks were given by Mr. Samuel Partey, Programme Specialist, Natural Sciences on behalf of UNESCO Regional Director for Eastern Africa, Prof. Hubert Gijzen. In the opening speech, he summarized the challenges that Africa is facing in accessing water and sanitation for all and called for the need to develop the human resource base and apply scientific evidence-based innovations and technology to drive the water security and sanitation agenda of the SDGs and aspirations of Agenda 2063.
Dr. Paul Orengo, Programme Director-AMCOW in his opening remark mentioned that minimal progress has been made towards achieving the SDG targets on water. Given that Africa is the youngest continent in the world, he said that the youth are agents of change and have the capacity for creativity and innovation. For that reason, AMCOW recognizes the role of youth in effective management of Africa’s water resources and is developing a strategy for supporting the youth, gender and social inclusion with regards to water education.
Dr. PENG Jing, Vice President, China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research (IWHR) said that IWHR has made continuous effort in capacity building and education by collaborating with partners in China and outside to deliver science to the people through open lecturers, field excursions, training workshops, awareness building activities and content development.
A video recording by Prof. Amparo López Jiménez, Vice-President, International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research (IAHR) was presented. In her message, she mentioned that “A proportional representation between genders, age and interest within IAHR will be more realistic and will more closely reflect the composition of the engineering community as a whole. In the sense, this thematic session provides a unique opportunity to find these benefits in the African region, which is important for all of us in this globalized world”.
Following the opening remarks, a number of presentations were made by various speakers. These included:
- Presentation of the water education series by Ms. Yuan MENG, Section Chief, International Communications, Division of International Cooperation, IWHR.
- UNESCO IHP Rwanda committee work on Water and Climate by Mr. Dominique Mvunabandi, Director, Science, Technology and Innovation Unit, Rwanda National Commission for UNESCO (CNRU)
- General issues on water education by Dr. Seifu Kebede, Associate Professor of Hydrology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
- Overview of IAHR and its events and activities within Africa by Dr. Moez Louati, Research Assistant Hong Kong University of Science and Technology & Chair of the working group on Transient Flows (IAHR)
- The “New” AMCOW Youth, Gender and Social Inclusion Strategy by Prof. Mashood N. Tijani: Groundwater Desk Officer, AMCOW
Key recommendations by the panelists was the need to start water education at a lower level of education. At this level it would be easy to arouse the interest of young people and influence their positive attitude and habits towards water. The need for collaboration and social inclusiveness was also mentioned as a key factor necessary to achieve sustainability on water. Finally, creating a platform for education and learning before engaging into environmental or any other aspect of education is important to avoid wastage of time, efforts and resources.
At the closing, Mr. Abou Amani, Director, Division of Water Science and Secretary of the Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme, UNESCO, Paris, summarized key points raised by the panelists and reiterated that UNESCO will consider all the outcomes of the session as well as continue moving the agenda of water education forward for the benefit of its member states.