SADC consultation on the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development


In May 2005, the SADC Secretariat approached the SADC Regional EE Programme to support it in developing guidelines for participating in the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. At the National EE Network Representatives Meeting in July 2005 country representatives agreed to support this initiative and between July and November 2005 national consultations took place in 13 SADC countries. These consultations involved over 400 representatives from UNESCO, education ministries, other relevant ministries, curriculum development centres, higher education institutions, NGOs and other key stakeholders from health, agriculture, environment and education.

An initial summary of the consultation reports was carried out by Prof. Heila Lotz-Sisitka, Mr Tichoana Pesenai and Ms Lausanne Olvitt. The following synopsis is based on this initial summary. In reading through this synopsis and obviously at the meeting in Gaborone we need to think through what the implications are of these insights for shaping the future of the SADC Regional EE Programme. Which areas are seen as priorities and how does a regional programme contribute to responding to these priorities?


The initial summary identifies four broad themes emerging from the reports namely:

  • Context and Development
  • Policy and Advocacy
  • Knowledge, Curriculum and Pedagogy
  • Supporting ESD Practices

Under Context and Development it is recognised that:

  • High levels of poverty and risk leave communities vulnerable with few alternatives. Development initiatives are struggling to provide security and viable alternatives suggesting that more effective and practice-centred development paradigms and approaches need to be a key focus of education processes focussing on environment and sustainable development .
  • Health risks (particularly HIV AIDS and Malaria), poverty, environmental degradation and poor governance are undermining education, human livelihoods/ well being and ecological sustainability. This suggests that systemic and pedagogic interventions are needed to address health, equity, peace and environment related questions both within and through the education system .
  • Shortages of human resources to implement education for sustainable development, as well as inadequate infrastructural and educational resources suggest that more attention needs to be given to capacity building and resource mobilisation for EE/ESD .

Under Policy and Advocacy:

  • A perceived lack of political will suggests that more emphasis needs to go into educating politicians to take issues of society and environment more seriously in the design and implementation of policy linked to environment, sustainable development and education focussing on these issues.
  • Despite many policies addressing sustainable development issues there is a lack of coherence between the different policies and a lack of integration across, and capacity within, Ministries and institutions responsible for their implementation. This indicates a need for institutional mechanisms to address policy synergy and enhanced capacity to work with complex and at time conflicting policy at local, national and international levels .
  • There is a risk that the new discourse of 'education for sustainable development' will ignore and marginalise many years of environmental education work that has sought to engage with social, political and economic factors and their relationship to the biophysical environment. There is a need to build on and strengthen existing education initiatives that address environmental issues and sustainable development challenges . ESD needs to take an inclusive and open ended approach.

Under Knowledge, Curriculum and Pedagogy

  • There appears to be a need to build knowledge of sustainable development and sustainability issues in all sectors of society , including amongst educators and trainers.
  • Curriculum reform in the context of environmental issues and sustainable development challenges will require flexibility and integration across disciplines. This will require a significant focus on curriculum development across diverse education settings .
  • Orientations to teaching and learning will need to shift significantly to allow for more participatory, learner-centred, practice-based approaches. This will require a focus on pedagogical approaches and the sharing of methods and approaches across the region and in different educational settings .
  • Cultural values, diverse knowledge systems and conflicting interests are important parts of identity formation and social systems. These have both positive and negative implications for sustainability. This implies that educators need to have the capacity to mobilise and engage with existing knowledge, values and interests . This will require a sensitivity to context and access to critical educational approaches.

Under Supporting ESD Practices:

  • There was recognition of the need to strengthen leadership, particularly educational leadership, to be more able to respond to socio-ecological challenges through education. This indicates that attention needs to be paid to including ESD approaches in universities and colleges and particularly in Educational Leadership training programmes .
  • There was recognition of the need to strengthen the capacity for monitoring and evaluation to ensure greater programme relevance and effectiveness in the context of education for sustainable development.
  • Stakeholder and partnership approaches were recognised as valuable assets amongst practitioners and institutions seeking to address environmental issues and sustainable development challenges through educational processes. This indicates that inclusive partnerships and networks at local, national, regional and international levels need to be strengthened .
  • The importance of developing, accessing and using appropriate learning support materials and up-to-date information was stressed. This implies the need to focus on learning support materials in programmes seeking to support EE and ESD.
  • The role of journalists and the media was emphasised in a number of countries indicating that these stakeholder groups need to be involved in ESD processes.
  • Access to and appropriate use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to support ESD processes were highlighted as an important aspect to include in ESD programmes and strategies.
  • It was recognised that few higher education institutions in southern Africa have research programmes that deal with educational processes in the context of environmental issues and sustainable development challenges. It was felt that research into ESD should be strengthened and extended to improve the quality of practice .

A key finding of the consultations is the existence of a wide variety of ESD practices in the southern African region, involving a large number of stakeholders who network at local, national, regional and international levels. These practices and networks are recognised as being important for enhancing education processes and the capacity for sustainable development. This indicates that ESD processes should take account of, and build on existing practice, and strengthen local, national, regional and international networks .

SADC Regional Environmental Education Programme