Education for Sustainable Development: Key Challenges

education-for-sustainable-developmentThe basic aim of 'Education for Sustainable Development' is to nurture an individual who is capable to solve environmental challenges facing the world and to promote the formation of a sustainable society. The first challenge is to have an ethos in schools that openly and enthusiastically supports the development of ESD (Education for Sustainable Development). This is partly down to the curriculum the school follows, but is mainly as a result of the interest and effort shown by senior management in promoting integration and whole school engagement; a critical element being teacher training. It is also down to the expectations that are put upon schools by education authorities when it comes to ESD.

With trained and motivated teachers, it is far easier to inspire and motivate students. Teachers can often use the environment as a vehicle for teaching certain concepts in their own specific subject. Once teachers have decided that this is something they feel is worthwhile, they will increasingly find ways to do so.

Using environmental issues in student learning shows students the bigger picture, which can significantly improve motivation. By letting pupils know why the work they are completing is important, and showing them where it fits in on a local and global scale, you’re enabling them to see its value.

Another challenge is being able to bridge the gap between what happens at home and what is taught in schools. For example, if a child is learning about recycling at school, but parents are not open to supporting their learning by adopting recycling practices at home, then the child, especially at a young age, receives very conflicting messages.

Schools are busy places and there are increasing pressures on teachers within the workplace. These can create additional challenges such as gaps between awareness and understanding; motivation to and knowledge of how to become more sustainable; individual to collective empowerment; finding time; budget restraints; linking infrastructure change to mind set change and whole community engagement.

However, with a more directed focus and commitment towards ESD in schools, children generally need very little motivation to care for their environment. You just have to give them a voice and they are away! The problem often comes from adults not understanding the bigger picture about caring for the long term future of the planet.

Strategy for GCC Countries

When it comes to educating locals and expats in the GCC, it can be categorized into three parts:

The physical change: looking at how schools, households and businesses can reduce their waste, water and energy and focus on more sustainable resources in general.

The mind set change: this is all about raising environmental understanding, awareness and action programmes throughout the school and business communities through workshops, cross-curricular activities and presentations, so that everybody is on the 'same page', as well as giving students and employees a voice. This leads to a fundamental change in attitudes and the choices people make.

Learning to respect others and appreciate the environment, as well as giving back to society: this is focused around the opportunities to learn beyond the workplace and home, and connect back to nature, as well as help communities in need. In a nutshell, it about being more caring.

Partnerships and action orientated behaviour within all 3 parts are crucially important to their success. Environmental awareness in itself is not enough, simply because awareness without leading to meaningful action and behaviour change goes nowhere.

Using environmental issues in student learning shows children the bigger picture

Using environmental issues in student learning shows children the bigger picture

This approach can be illustrated in the Beyond COP21 Symposium series that I am currently running globally with the support of Eco-Schools. The event consists of themed high impact presentations from, and discussions with, guest speakers on the SDGs Agenda 2030 and climate negotiations in and beyond Paris; individual & community action; pledge- making and practical activities/workshops.

Local sustainable companies and organisations are invited to showcase their initiatives and engage with students from a variety of schools, both local and expat, in each city or region. Successfully run in Dubai twice and with an upcoming event in Jordan, the Middle East region has certainly embraced the partnership approach when it comes to supporting environmental education initiatives that benefit all those involved.

Role of Technology and Social Media

The greatest role it can play is through the spread of information and ideas, as well as the sharing of good practice within the GCC. Sometimes the hardest thing is to know where to start and how to become motivated, and certainly both can help. Also technology can help to source important resources for teachers. Bee’ah’s School of Environment, which I have been recently developing new online resources for, is a very good example of how well this can work.

Please visit my website http://www.target4green.com for more information about my organization and its activities.

EcoMENA – Vision and Mission

The MENA region is plagued by a host of issues including water scarcity, waste disposal, food security, industrial pollution and desertification. Providing free access to quality information and knowledge-based resources motivates youngsters in a big way. EcoMENA provides encouragement to masses in tackling major environmental challenges by empowering them with knowledge and by providing them a solid platform to share their views with the outside world.

Salman Zafar, Founder of EcoMENA, talks to the Florentine Association of International Relations (FAIR) about the vision, aims, objectives and rationale behind the creation of EcoMENA. The original version of the interview can be viewed at http://goo.gl/dnfa4K

 

FAIR: What is EcoMENA and what is its primary mission?

Salman Zafar: EcoMENA came into existence in early 2012 with the primary aim to raise environmental awareness in the MENA region and provide a one-stop destination for high-quality information on environment, energy, waste, water, sustainability and related areas.

EcoMENA has made remarkable progress within a short period of time and has huge knowledge base in English as well as Arabic catering to all aspects of sustainability sector, including renewable energy, resource conservation, waste management, environment protection and water management.

FAIR: How did the idea of such an activity come from?

Salman Zafar: While doing research sometimes back, I noticed lack of easily-accessible information on Middle East environmental sector. EcoMENA was launched to empower masses with updated information on Middle East sustainability sector and latest developments taking place worldwide.

EcoMENA is an online information powerhouse freely accessible to anyone having an interest in sustainable development. Our articles, reports and analyses are well-researched, well-written and of the highest professional standards.

FAIR: What is the “state of the art” in the field of sustainability and environment protection in the MENA countries?

Salman Zafar: Unfortunately environment protection is not given due importance by regional countries, though there has been some high-profile initiatives like Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. Sustainability is, no doubt, making its way in the Middle East but the progress has been slow and unsatisfactory.

The MENA region is plagued by a host of issues including water scarcity, waste disposal, food security, industrial pollution and desertification. A regional initiative with a multi-pronged strategy is urgently required to protect the environment and conserve scarce natural resources.

FAIR: What are EcoMENA aims and initiatives for the future?

Salman Zafar: One of the major objectives of EcoMENA is to provide a strong platform for Middle East youngsters to showcase their talents. We are mentoring young students and providing them opportunities to display their innovativeness, creativity and dedication towards environment protection.

Providing free access to quality information and knowledge-based resources motivates youngsters in a big way. EcoMENA provides encouragement to people in tackling major environmental challenges by empowering them with knowledge and by providing them a solid platform to share their views with the outside world. With soaring popularity of social media, networking plays a vital role in assimilation of ideas, knowledge-sharing, scientific thinking and creativeness.

We have a strong pool of expert writers from different parts of the world, and remarkably supported by a handful of volunteers from across the MENA region. Apart from being an information portal, EcoMENA also provide expert guidance and mentorship to entrepreneurs, researchers, students and general public.

FAIR: Do you think there is enough attention and sensitiveness in the sustainable development?

Salman Zafar: Things are slowly, but steadily, changing in most of the MENA countries and a more concerted and organized effort is required to bring about a real change in the prevalent environmental scenario.

A green MENA requires proactive approach from all stakeholders including governments, corporates and general public. Strong environmental laws, promotion of clean energy and eco-friendly projects, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, institutional support and funding, implementing resource conservation, raising environmental awareness and fostering entrepreneurial initiatives are some of the measures that may herald a ‘green revolution’ in the region.

FAIR: In your opinion, what is the “added value” of your mission?

Salman Zafar: EcoMENA endeavor to create mass awareness about the need for clean and green environment in the Middle East through articles, projects, events and campaigns. EcoMENA is counted among the best and most popular Middle East sustainability initiatives with wide following across the world.

Our goal is to transform EcoMENA into a regional cleantech and environmental hub by providing quality information, professional solutions and high level of motivation to people from all walks of life.

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An Interview with Paper Bag Boy of Abu Dhabi

Abdul Muqeet, also known as the Paper Bag Boy, has risen from being just another ordinary boy to an extraordinary environmentalist spearheading the fight against climate change in United Arab Emirates. Ten-year old Abdul Muqeet has demonstrated remarkable commitment to saving the environment and has won numerous awards including the prestigious Abu Dhabi Award. Here the Paper Bag Boy (PBB) talks to Salman Zafar, Founder of EcoMENA, about various aspects of waste management scenario in UAE:

SZ: You are considered as the ‘recycling face’ of Abu Dhabi because of your wonderful achievements. Can you give an idea of the prevalent waste management scenario in Abu Dhabi?

PBB: As far as waste management is concerned, winds of change are sweeping across Abu Dhabi. Centre for Waste Management is making commendable efforts in improving waste collection and disposal situation in Abu Dhabi. Separate collection bins for plastic, paper and general waste can now be seen at strategic locations. An underground pneumatic waste collection system is also being designed for Abu Dhabi which would help a lot in dealing with the problem of urban wastes.

SZ: What are the major factors responsible for tremendous increase in waste generation in GCC countries?

PBB: High standards of living, increasing population and consumerism are the major factors responsible for increase in waste generation across the Middle East region. Fortunately, people are doing their best to do away with this problem and everybody is working together for a better environment.

SZ: GCC countries have the highest per capita waste generation in the world. What basic measures can be taken to reduce solid waste generation in the region?

PBB: Source-segregation and mass awareness can be instrumental in reducing waste generation in GCC. Segregated bins is already helping in waste management and educating people to buy less quantity of things and recycling would help as well.

SZ: What is attitude of common people towards waste recycling in the Emirates?

PBB: A major problem is that people are usually unaware about harmful effects of garbage and benefits of waste recycling.  The government, NGOs, environmentalist etc are making constant efforts to educate the masses, and I must say that things are beginning are look up.

SZ: Keeping in view your first-hand experience in waste management projects, what future do you foresee for recycling projects in the region? Is the government providing enough support in solving the waste management problem?

PBB: The government has been very supportive, to say the least. It is formulating effective laws, providing funding, organizing community initiatives and motivating the general public to solve the waste management problem.

 

 

SZ: What is the awareness and interest-level of masses towards waste recycling?

PBB: Slowly but steadily, people are becoming increasingly aware about the harmful effects of urban wastes and importance of waste recycling. Many schools are taking measures for educating children on how to implement recycling in day-to-day life.  Shopping malls and other commercial establishments are also taking measures to minimize waste generation..

SZ: What is your idea of ‘clean and green world’?

PBB: Making changes to our daily lives to decrease waste generation, reduce global warming and minimizing the use of chemicals that deplete the protective ozone layer. We all must do our share to take care of our planet and not overusing the resources that we all share.

SZ: You are a true inspiration for millions of youngsters all over the world. What message/advice you would like to give to students and entrepreneurs?

PBB: I would like to tell them to plant more trees, recycle papers and plastic, because you need to remember that everything on earth can be recycled but not time, so take your action fast and do your part in saving the environment. If you want to make a difference, the best way to start is to follow three principles of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

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