STATE universities have been urged to promote climate change education at undergraduate level to create a climate change literate community.
The movement will be in line with the National Climate Change learning strategy which seeks to promote awareness in the country and mitigate negative impacts of climate change primarily caused by limited climate knowledge.
Addressing delegates during a Project Inception and National Planning in Bulawayo yesterday, National University of Science and Technology lecturer in the institute of Development Studies, Mr Mkhokheli Sithole, said there is a need to introduce climate change as a core subject at Universities.
He said tertiary institutions are critical in effectively imparting knowledge on climate change and can help the country achieve a climate change knowledgeable citizenry.
Mr Sithole said universities can also help the country to climate-proof all the socio-economic sectors and create knowledgeable members of the public.
“Tertiary institutions play a critical role in adjusting to mitigating negative realities of climate change. In Zimbabwe it is very unfortunate that very few of our universities have streamlined climate change learning at undergraduate level. Programmes that directly speak to climate change are offered in a few universities. Our universities now need to consider climate change as an area that needs more attention,” he said.
“As institutions we carry out research and a recent report showed that there is generally low production of peer review paper production on new knowledge on climate change issues. Going through the Scopus database, it recorded about 77 papers on climate change research published by 18 percent state universities in Southern Africa. On that report Zimbabwe has contributed very few new knowledge research papers that are climate oriented. This therefore speaks to the need for tertiary institutions in Zimbabwe to step up in producing new knowledge in climate change. There is a gap that local universities need to fill in producing new knowledge on climate change.”
Mr Sithole said climate change should be part of sustainable development in the curriculum.
He said universities should work towards producing innovative students who can come up with practical skills to address the adverse effects of climate change.
Mr Sithole said that can be achieved by allowing students to reach out to communities and experience real environmental challenges that can be linked to the theoretical knowledge they acquire from universities.
“Those universities that are already offering programmes on climate change need to go beyond the curriculum and make these programmes more practical and not theoretical. In most cases in our universities we produce students that are more competent in theoretical approaches. The argument is that universities should now work towards producing students that can come up with practical solutions with regards to climate change,” he said.
“Students need to reach out to communities and be able to collect the world view of people in the society on environmental challenges being faced. Find out how people react to climate issues and incorporate them in the solutions that can save the community.”
A lecturer at Bindura University who is also the chairman of the Geography department, Dr Albert Manyani, said there is a need for lecturers to be capacitated through trainings on climate change to help them have complete appreciation of the subject.
He said there is a need for lecturers to actively participate along with students as primary disseminators of the information.
Zimbabwe received a US$ 100 000 grant from the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation to help implement a National Climate Change Learning Strategy that will help the country achieve a “Climate Resilient and Low Carbon Zimbabwe.