By Nesia Mhaka
Southern African countries have been challenged to promote climate change education at all levels to create an informed community as well as to reduce loss of lives due to natural disasters.
This will be in line with the National Climate Change Learning Strategy which seeks to promote awareness in the countries and mitigate the impact of climate change, primarily caused by limited knowledge of the subject.
Climate change was discussed as an urgent issue requiring global action and necessitating a shift in thinking and decision-making to account for destructive human-environmental interactions.
Climate change is already affecting many of the lives and livelihoods in Southern Africa, including Zimbabwe. It is undermining the nation’s economic development through compromised livelihood outcomes that result from gradual changes in temperature and rainfall patterns, combined with increasing frequency and intensity of natural hazards, such as floods and droughts.
In addition, climate change impacts are felt equally by the rural and urban areas. It also affects education. Rural children will spend more time at water queues, looking for firewood and some may fail to go to school as they help source food.
Governments in the southern part of Africa acknowledged education as a necessary tool to address climate change.
Education was recognised for its ability to empower, inform and motivate those engaged, the wider community and governments to take action on climate change.
Various examples were presented as means of integrating climate change into education, including those curriculum-based, community-based and technology-based approaches.
Speaking during a Climate Change Learning Strategy Development meeting held in Bulawayo recently, Malawian deputy director of Environmental Affairs, Shamiso Najira challenged governments from various countries in Southern Africa to promote climate education to create knowledgeable members of the public.
“Education has a necessary role to play in helping nations to develop a workforce with the knowledge, skills and drive to develop a sustainable, green economy.
“Often, people think that problems such as climate change are to be solved by the Government or scientists. However, we need to be aware that each of us is involved as part of the problem and part of the solution. What children learn today will shape tomorrow’s world.
“Climate change education in schools, therefore, has a central role to play in helping the general public and especially the next generations understand and relate to the issues, make lifestyle changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and adapt to the changing local conditions,” she said.
She added that education is a key in innovation and investments in environmentally-sound technologies, infrastructure and sustainable livelihoods.
Speaking at the same event, a representative of the Chemicals and Waste Management Programme Division for Planet, under the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, Nelson Mhanda, said education is an essential element of the global response to climate change.
“Education helps young people to understand and address the impact of global warming, encourages changes in their attitudes and behaviour and helps them adapt to climate change-related trends.
“Through advocating for climate change education, governments must aim to make climate change education more central and a visible part of the international response to climate change. This will help people understand the impact of global warming today and increase climate literacy among young people.”
He added: “It does this by strengthening the capacity of its member states to provide quality climate change education, encouraging innovative teaching approaches to integrate climate change education in school and by raising awareness about climate change.’’