Unpacking ‘sustainability’ for education for sustainable development

It is said that sustainability is the foundation for today’s global framework for international cooperation, bringing into focus the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Therefore, the concept of sustainability is geared towards balancing our social, environmental and economic needs. But that’s not where the point of today’s discussion is. The bone of contention in this regard, is what then makes the term sustainability, a wrongly interpreted word, wrongly used or manipulated, taken for granted or parroted.

By Peter Makwanya

Is it that the term has been overused, until it made no sense, or has become tired, hence it has become largely a liability and a cliché as well? Even after being coined with the word “development” culminating in the birth of sustainable development, which is defined by the Bruntland Commission (9187) as, the development that meets the needs of present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs. The emergence of the term, sustainable development has made millions of people around the world continue to use the term with high levels of ignorance.

The reason being that most of the people, especially from the developing countries have failed to see anything substantial which translates to sustainable development. As such, the word (sustainability) is yet to mean what it says, in both scope and content or maybe it has been highjacked by the strange lips of the corrupt politicians and kleptomaniacs of this era.

In this regard, nobody has come to the rescue of these multitudes of doubting Thomases, that indeed yes, sustainable development means long lasting development, because the concept of “sustainability” has emanated from the tradition of thinking or world views which stand to criticise perspectives of economic development that overlook the natural environment, clearly demonstrates some harmful ways of lives of human living. Therefore, sustainable development not only advocates for environmental budgeting and accounting but environmental stewardship as well.

Coming back to sustainability, one would realise that there are indeed many branches of sustainability, which are political, agricultural, linguistic based on communication trajectories, economic, education, and environmental among others. As such, real language is not only its grammar as it is also for human thinking, communication and ecosystemic realisation. Therefore, sustainability would become a pragmatic socio-cultural awareness of maintaining a balance and momentum of different species that participate in a variety landscapes of the environment.

It is also quite a difficult process about how people can evaluate the sustainability levels of any concept or programme. As a result of misinterpretation, they end up parroting, thinking allowed or rather grand standing for communication massaging. These communication pitfalls and mishaps resulted not from the people’s own desires and volition. But this is mainly because, as the word sustainability was coined, it was also sharpened initially from the ideological point of view, which is a new strategy and perspective, emanating especially, from the developed countries, seeking to stamp their industrial and technological dominance, in order to forward their hegemonic tendencies.

It is also from the Rio-Earth Summit of 1992, were the concept of sustainable development was seriously hatched and the whole world bought the new concept of the developmental paradigm as a binding form of ideology. The main question resulting from that, is how much universal education and awareness was inculcated to a wide spectrum of citizens across the globe. Yes, it is very true that, people were made aware, but they did not receive enough, comprehensive and empowering education, as shown by the interpretation pitfalls, duplications and miscommunications.

What is paramount is that the significance of education for sustainable development, is that it imparts life skills suitable for problem-solving transactions. This is a result of education for sustainable development as being holistic and exhaustive in nature through embracing a wide cross-section of disciplines which contribute to human livelihoods. Through education for sustainable development, learners are equipped and empowered to their basic survival needs, thereby improving their quality of life without destroying the environment.

Everyone needs education for sustainable development, from primary to secondary level, college to university levels, including the corporate sector without living out the omniscient politicians. It is inclusive, interactive, participatory and empowering, to say the least. It is also an open secret that, our politicians lack education for sustainable development because they concentrate on fulfilling their current needs, not needs of the current generations and they would go on to endanger the needs of the future generations, by leaving the environment disintegrated and fallen apart.

In this regard, the role of education is seen as an instrument for the development-oriented thinking. Therefore, if the individual cannot produce results, what more of the well-resourced country’s leadership. Although Africa has the capacity to nurture its own sustainable education practices, it always wait to be lectured and oriented on issues of sustainable development by the developed countries. Although it is not bad to be part of the global environment, continuing to learn from others without them, learning from you, it’s tragic and suicidal.

Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his capacity and can be contacted on: petrovmoyt@gmail.com

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