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MESA UNIVERSITY PROGRAMME Situating innovations in African Culture, Epistemology and Context. Presentation prepared for the Educate the Educators ESD Innovation Course (UNEP/SADC-REEP ) Kenya School of Monetary Studies, Nairobi-Kenya 4-9 May 2006 By Dorcas Beryl Otieno (PhD)

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Situating innovations in African Culture, Epistemology and Context.

Presentation prepared for the Educate the Educators ESD Innovation Course (UNEP/SADC-REEP )

Kenya School of Monetary Studies, Nairobi-Kenya 4-9 May 2006


Dorcas Beryl Otieno (PhD)

Kenyatta University


Paper Outline

  • Perspectives and Premises for Sustainability in Higher Education (SHE)
  • UNESCO on Contextualising ESD
  • African and Country ESD strategies
  • Guidelines for reorienting education /developing ESD innovations
  • Institutional Capacity Building


  • Perspectives and Premises for Sustainability in Higher Education (SHE)
  • Scholars have developed premises for SHE including the following:
  • Deep questioning”. Consideration of “vital needs” the principle of “universibility” and the concept of beautiful action” as tools that can inspire a sustainability mission for higher education. Glasser, H. (2004 ).

University education must embark upon a discussion of transformative vision if we are to have an education that holds the core values of sustainability.

  • Sustainability is a result of processes such as conflict resolution, negotiated agreement, social learning, distributed cognition, alleviating social dilemmas, building social capital, collective decision making and concerted action. Roling, N. (2004).
  • Whole systems design theory and practice which maximize stakeholders’ involvement in

management, engagement in core values and assessment of organizational change, lend themselves well to moving higher education towards sustainability. Pittman, J. (2004).

  • UNESCOs International implementation scheme for ESD 2004-2014 recognizes that Education for Sustainable Development carries with it the inherent idea of implementing programs that are locally relevant and culturally appropriate.
  • All sustainable development programs including ESD must take into consideration the local environmental, economic, and societal conditions.

According to the Working paper for Africa-UNESCO-Nairobi clusster countries contextualization for Africa needs should consider the following key issues which are linked to the implementation of NEPAD, EFA &MDGs.

· Society, environment, economy

  • · Environmental protection and management: Biodiversity, fragile ecosystems
  • · Educational systems and trends (formal, non-formal, informal)
  • ·

Knowledge systems: Development of indigenous knowledge systems e.g. local religions, traditional foods, knowledge for biodiversity conservation; integration of the local knowledge with the other knowledge systems, sustainable usage of biodiversity.

  • · Skills development, sustainable entrepreneurship, livelihoods and markets
  • ·  Strong relationship between natural resource base and livelihoods
  • ·

·Local context: Existing policies, economic, social, political conditions, corruption, intergenerational equity, ethnicity, governance, debts.

  • Cross-cutting issues and themes: Human rights, gender equity, literacies, intellectual property rights, ecosystems approach, partnership (colonial legacy) etc. Culture: promotion and development of local religions, values,
  • ·Poverty: (identification of root causes)

·Health: Integration of the traditional medicines and the ‘modern medicine’; development of effective medical institutions to curb potential pandemics

  • ·sustainable livelihoods.
  • Engagement of leaders and stakeholders: Chiefs, political leaders, religious leaders,civil society and the informal sector
  • ·Information and awareness: Use of information, communication technologies (ICT),

effective traditional communication strategies (e.g. places of worship)

  • The Millennium Development goals are seen as the core of development, therefore implying that learning should be reoriented to be life-long and equip learners with skills to lead to sustainable development.
  • Ref ESD strategy for Africa and respective country strategies.

Guidelines for reorienting education /developing ESD innovations

  • Locally relevant and culturally appropriate
  • Based on local needs perceptions and conditions
  • Engage formal, non formal and informal education
  • A lifelong endeavor
  • Accommodate the evolving nature of the concept of sustainability

Addresse content, context, pedagogy, global issues and local priorities

  • Deal with the well-being of all the three realms of sustainability – environment, society and economy.
  • Ministerial and national level involvement need to:
  • Create policy to support ESD
  • Develop professional development ESD related programmes
  • Develop strong national co-ordination team

work with national publishers and textbook committees to infuse sustainability into books.

  • Involve community and regional/provincial in addressing local sustainability issues to bring relevancy to the curriculum and contribute to deeper understanding of the complex issues and its impact on the community.
  • make use of community resources to teach about sustainability
  • work on projects that are relevant community well-being.

Institutional Capacity Building

  • Changes within Universities
  • In order for universities to effectively implement ESD innovations in management, learning, research and community service ,some changes may need to be effectedThese may include:
  • Changes across the Universities
  • Visionary Leadership, Universities need a localised strategy for mainstreaming ESD with clear mission, vision and objectives
  • Develop ESD criteria for the Universities
  • reorient education as a viable avenue for research

Initiate Interdisciplinary courses in sustainability degree requirements across disciplinary schools

  • create a sustainable-campus policy and conduct highly visible events that reinforce campus efforts to implement that policy
  • Changes within Schools/Faculties
  • Institutionalise ESD processes and projects for continuity inspite frequent changes in the school or administration and funding.
  • Changes related to teaching/training
  • ESD must focus on African communities and how they engage in development processes and interact with their local environment.

Practice and support towards this may include the following:

  • Develop specialized programmes on ESD and interdisciplinary coursework on sustainability
  • Demonstrate learning techniques that foster higher-order thinking skills, support decision making and involve participatory learning
  • Identify topics themes and projects linked to local sustainability issues
  • Promote understanding of local, indigenous and global sustainability in order to encourage critical thinking and decision making that influence personal lifestyle and economic choices.

Place graduates who have completed courses in ESD in key institutions and ministerial positions to help influence and bring about change

  • Funding and resources mobilization and partnerships is required to initiate and institutionalize ESD programmes
  • Universities should work with ministries of education to redirect existing funding to address ESD; seek new funding through grants, and research; and collaborate with NGOs and environmental, business and social foundations.


  • universities should develop an evaluation tool for monitoring school and faculty efforts to reorient education to address sustainability issues
  • Increased research on quality teaching and learning approaches for ESD
  • Research on assessment standards and measure of performance for ESD

There is need to develop cross institutional sustainability assessment toolkit to enhance strategic planning while ensuring that specific tools are contextualised to address local needs.

  • Some of the Global tools which can be localised include:
  • Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire
  • Auditing Instrument for Sustainability in Higher Education
  • Greening Campuses
  • Campus Ecology