The recent curriculum review in Zimbabwe could not have come at a favourable time than the current one. The curriculum review process should instil confidence in stakeholders, designers and implementers to fill in the inherent procedural gaps that made it impossible for children to have a holistic and comprehensive understanding of climate change. This does not mean to deconstruct the essence of geography and environmental sciences but to give climate change a much broader view and strategically place children at the heart of sustainable development in Zimbabwe.
For a long time, climate change has not been viewed as interdisciplinary in nature, including making use of the local lenses to interrogate climate issues. For this reason, climate change remains problematic, technical and only for the media to articulate, thereby leaving out the children, the important stakeholders in this regard. A climate friendly and child-centred approach driven by local worldview would improve awareness, knowledge and understanding of it. Making children relate climate change to the unfolding local situations, scenarios and impacts is the holistic nature of climate change. Mainstreaming climate change into a broad network of subjects at primary and secondary levels is not disempowering science but rather making it diverse.
Zimbabwe as a country does not require omniscient narrators to lecture its citizens about climate change. The country is still part of the global community but it should retain its local flavour.
Although integration and collaboration is required to accelerate public awareness, education and knowledge of the climate discourse, the local perspectives are sufficiently empowering. The role of NGOs is instrumental in facilitating the required transformation but not to lecture, recreate or deconstruct the essential elements of the local worldview. Language should not be used to scare away children from articulating climate change issues because they have their own culture, knowledge and experiences, they should tell their own stories, sing their own songs, dramatise their own games and role-play events unfolding in their own backgrounds. Children would use these to create and make meanings from their environment. The lack of the multimedia approaches and worldview in articulating climate change issues leave the children exposed and disempowered.
It should always start from the schools where teachers are sufficiently oriented to articulate climate change issues from informed and holistic points of view.
This would make children bridge the gap between theoretical learning and practice to achieve climate information literacy and resilience. Children require a gradual process to learn climate change issues by participating in simple but empowering climate problem-solving actions for solutions relevant to their experiences. One major militating gap is that teachers are not yet sufficiently grounded in the climate change discourse yet children are already classified as being at the heart of climate knowledge and understanding.
Climate change is not news, therefore children cannot exclusively rely on traditional forms of multimedia mouthpieces like the radio, television and print in order to understand the problem that climate change is. Furthermore, teachers don’t have the materials and tools to facilitate teaching of climate change to children for the appropriate acquisition of skills needed to make them climate compliant.
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A wide range of climate compliant activities range from conservation agriculture, rain-water harvesting, earth building, how to reduce carbon footprints, realising food security, dramatising climate scenarios unfolding in their communities, biodiversity and water conservation, organic agriculture among others. Children also need to sing songs that discourage people from harming the environment, cause land degradation and deforestation and also use stories that help to align them with nature, stories that name and shame behaviours that contribute to the destruction of the environment.
Children can also use art and cultural celebrations as part of alternative in climate change education. These can also be integrated with video competitions where children share experiences, projects and compete.
Children can also practise environmental stewardship through family and religious studies or learn mathematics using environmental games for addition, subtraction and multiplication, including games that facilitate the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Games that promote environmental sustainability have the greatest potential to educate, inform and inspire children to appreciate their environment, leading to their comprehensive participation in community building. This is a fundamental paradigm shift in nurturing nature growth and sustainable futures.
Education is another tool that moulds children’s perspectives as well as the ways they value and interact with their surroundings, together with coming up with eco-solutions that influence strategic adaptation activities. Therefore, it is the aim of environmental games to situate the children at the centre of environmental sustainability, yesterday, today and tomorrow. The sustainability mind-set needs to be nurtured, empowered and groomed through play. Through an element of play, children develop the physical and motor skills, correlated to a healthy body and healthy mind. For young children, the environment becomes an extension of their everyday world.
Environmental ethics and sustainable development should be at the centre of the children’s learning so that from the onset, they are aware of the evils that constitute environmental or climate injustices. Children are required to have knowledge of how to interact with natural landscapes, resources, organisms, including the teaching of high level moral philosophy, important for moral responsibility towards the natural environment.
It is also important that natural resources must be used in ways that produce balanced ecosystems. This is important for future generations, hence the children and the youths are the future.