What Went Wrong With the Environmental Education and Clubs Integration in Tanzania?

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Environmental Education refers to organized efforts to teach how natural environments function, particularly how human beings can manage behaviour and ecosystems sustainably in their surroundings. The teaching can include both formal classes and laboratory work or informal means such as field excursions and any other means to explore a specific area of knowledge about surroundings. Environmental education is multi-disciplinary and, therefore, encompasses subjects related to physics, chemistry, biology, earth sciences, and ecology, to mention a few.

“In Tanzania, Environmental Education was integrated into primary school education since 1960” according to recent imperial studies”, it has only gained significant attention in recent years. The government, NGOs, and educational institutions have been working to advance awareness about environmental issues and promote sustainable practices nationwide.

Efforts have been made to incorporate environmental education into the primary school curriculum, focusing on topics such as biodiversity conservation, climate change, water management, and waste management. Additionally, there have been initiatives to train teachers in Environmental Education and engage local communities in conservation projects. However, the effectiveness and reach of these programs may vary across different regions based on the institutions spearheading the process.

In the past decades, environmental education was conducted in primary schools and organized in clubs. These clubs were pivots for indoctrinating understanding of environmental education in schools and beyond the fences of the schools. These clubs fostered dramas, dancing, poems, debates, drawing skills, and creative storytelling/writing skills.

The clubs were organized by various institutions such as the Wildlife Conservations Society of Tanzania, Roots and Shoots clubs and storm centres for active eco-schools. The busy pupils’ groups would perform various creative activities for the environment through these clubs.

It was an interface between pupils and the environment, which gave mutual and healthy interactions. In recent years, the involvement of the pupils and the schools in these activities has been dwindling, pausing a question of our whereabouts and destiny of the next generation yawning gap, which is under construction.

It was thrilling being amongst the members of these clubs where one could continue his inspiration and creativity. The decreasing motivation to join these clubs and inactivity raises the alarm and calls for revisiting this strategy. While the environmental sustainability agenda is gaining momentum, we should embrace it and continue shaping our understanding of our anticipated future for the next generation to learn through these ecological clubs.

What is Happening, and What is the Way Forward?

Tanzania has neither a specific environmental education policy nor standalone regulation on both clubs, although ecological education has been included in the National Education Policy 2014. Nonetheless, this is insufficient to suffice all the schools in Tanzania. Various stakeholders have undertaken several initiatives, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), yet their efforts have bounced back. There are always challenges due to policy inconsistencies, funding for running clubs’ activities, and time slots in the general academic calendar of the responsible ministry.

Given the current global patterns in various sectors of which environmental education is not exceptional, some adjustment from ad-hoc and traditional practices such as tree planting to innovation and creativity is needed to couple with the modern pace. Technology is taking its toll, and we must encourage innovations and creativity in such a direction.

We can continue to educate about environmental education as business as usual, not ignoring the standard practices, but we can also do even better through integrating technology and innovation. We can incorporate renewable energy, Artificial Intelligence, coding, etc. The concept can be introduced to ignite the pupils’ curiosity and let it explode and sparkle in their minds.

The schools should be encouraged to spare time for environmental education clubs and laboratory work excursions in collaboration with NGOs and other private stakeholders. There is an urgent need to integrate the private sector and NGOs to enhance the financing of some environmental education activities. Some organizations support these activities, but much integration is excellent to attract more partnerships, even the private sector and businesses.

Some businesses support some activities as their corporate responsibility, which should be highly encouraged. There has been a good example, which was set at the beginning of 2023. The Cultural Heritage Centre in Arusha showed a positive gesture towards supporting Roots and Shoots. Among others was the introduction of e-mobility (E-vehicles) and sustainable tourism to the pupils who participated in the event. This was a great way to finance and introduce all the sustainability partake, technology, and innovations in EE.

It is also clear that environmental education is not operating in the country as a whole; each zone has its programs based on the supporting institutions. This has caused disintegration and inconsistency as influenced by these supporting organizations’ focus. Unlike urban centres, those living in national parks are automatically oriented towards wildlife management. It is, therefore, clear that due to budget, geographical settings, and policy limitations, there are significant interferences and variations in implementing environmental education in Tanzania.

Training environmental education experts in Tanzania is not yet the priority, whereby the educated individuals are few compared to the actual demand. None of the training institutions have standalone courses in Tanzania. Also, most teachers responsible for EE clubs are not trained enough in schools. Instead, they have attained partial qualifications as additional short-course training.

Apart from achieving these qualifications, they are less motivated to continue teaching and less with limited resources. It sums up the hurdles towards realizing clubs regardless of their long-term integration into the education system in Tanzania.

Although there is no policy and enough budget for the clubs in Tanzania, I presume the country should engage to enable and facilitate the Environmental Clubs to breed the young generation. Global awareness is increasing, and approaches towards critical environmental problems such as global warming from fossil fuels, deforestation and biodiversity loss, food waste, fast fashion, and plastic pollution, to mention a few.

Through these clubs, the pupils can learn their role and position in these issues and how to contribute to finding an everlasting solution.I am calling for all environment stakeholders in the country to plan for projects that give children and youths opportunities to air their voices on environmental issues. Participation of these two groups must be part of creating and implementing plans to deal with climate change. This will make them champions of the issues while preparing them for their future.” Minister of State in the Vice-President’s Office (Union and Environment) Dr. Selemani Jafo, May 15, 2023.

The new curriculum at the beginning of the 2024 academic year is an indicative progressive compass that has shortened the primary education years from 7 to 6 years. Since it commenced early this year, it is premature to comment on whether it will be a great solution. However, looking at the subject’s allocation, it is impressive to see that for standards 1-3, taking care of health and the environment is included.

Also, for standards 4-6, geography and environment are included in the list of the subjects to be covered. As stated earlier, even without EE policy, there is some particular concern worth commending; however, much needs to be done to ensure that environmental education in primary schools is not marginalized, but more priority is given and primarily emphasized. The environmental education clubs must be revived, coordinated, and encouraged to cast their nets wide to accommodate more nationwide schools and continue support from government and development partners.

Environmental education clubs must play their potential roles given the urgency to adapt and mitigate climate change impacts, which have become so rampant. The environmental education clubs are the vehicles to integrate environmental knowledge and how to manage and care for our life-supporting system.

There are concerted efforts between NGOs, government and private businesses, but proper coordination and motivation are still missing. The recent uneven climate events and disasters are a call to tidy up our strategies to combat these impacts in collaboration. “Together we stand and divided we fall” Let’s encourage and support environmental education clubs for a better environment for our current and next of kin.

Get more of our latest climate change insights here.

Dr. Emanueli Ndossi, a seasoned EIA and EA Expert, directs J & Enviroconsult (T) Ltd, with over a decade of experience. His expertise covers Project Management, Monitoring, and Evaluation (M&E) for comprehensive environmental assessments. Dr. Ndossi, with impactful roles in WCST, TFCG, and the University of Queensland, has shaped conservation efforts work spans diverse sectors, contributing to sustainable practices in tourism and conservation. Dr. Ndossi holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from the University of Göttingen and an M.Sc. in Environmental Management from the University of Queensland. His active engagement in organizations like ISIE, Carbon Lab, Soil Science Society of Germany, WCST, and FCC showcases his significant contributions to the environmental field.

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