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Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE January 2006 ISSN 1302-6488 Volume: 7 Number: 1 Article: 3
Enviromental Education and Networking in
Mafeteng Primary Schools: A Participatory Approach
Institute of Education
National University of Lesotho
Lesotho, SOUTHERN AFRICA
This paper explores a participatory process of Environmental Education (EE) networking
in Mafeteng primary schools. It gives an overview of the existing EE efforts in Lesotho, particularly the models schools of the National Curriculum Development Centre.
It also provides information about Lesotho Environmental Information Network as the body that drove the networking process. The paper discusses cycles of the participatory process undertaken for the EE networking in Mafeteng schools, including identification of problems, problem solving, and reflective workshop and study tour.
Finally the paper outlines issues that emerged in participatory EE networking, which include school governance, teachers’ existing knowledge, and communication, decision- making and power relations.
Keywords: Environmental Education, Lesotho Environmental Information Network, Mafeteng Schools, EE networking.
The education system of Lesotho allows both formal and non-formal education, with formal education including early childhood education, primary education, secondary and high school education, then tertiary education. Most primary and secondary schools are owned by churches, with a few private and government schools. Consequently, churches are major stakeholders in the education sector in Lesotho. (Lefoka & Sebatane, 2003) Environmental Education (EE) is a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to questions that are of importance for human and global survival thus sustaining both human and natural entities. It encourages us to change our behaviour and attitude towards several things in our lifestyles. But that is not enough if any changes are to take place, we also must know how to behave and how to act.
That is why some scholars ratify action competency in order to address the challenges facing our environment. ‘Action competency is described as a concept promotes the view that learners develop a general and sustainable capacity to participate in democratic processes and contribute to the solution of problems relating to the conflicting way we interact with our natural resources.’ (Stark, 2002).
There are indications that Lesotho is seriously concerned about the global environment and this is evidenced by efforts of incorporating Environmental Education (EE) in the schools' curricula. One indication is that the National Curriculum Development Centre
In an endeavour to incorporate EE in school programmes the Lesotho Government initiated the Lesotho Environmental Education Support Project (LEESP). The LEESP was a Government Environmental Education initiative, based at the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC). It was designed to support and influence the formal education system and enhance the interrelationship between different institutions and departments in the Ministry of Education, which play a role in education and environmental education in general. Thus, the purpose was to ensure that each learner develops the necessary skills to manage the environment and to support a sustained development in Lesotho.
LEESP tackled environmental education from two angles, one is the curriculum and assessment, giving room for improvements and varying procedures, and the other is practical or methodological, targeting selected model schools. LEESP considered EE as a responsibility for the education system in the country and for each and every school. It encouraged each and every teacher to take responsibility for EE as related to the subject taught.
Environmental learning materials are essential for effective environmental learning. As most of Lesotho Primary school teachers lack innovative skills to produce learning materials, there is a need for these teachers to know how to use waste to produce learning materials, so that pupils could learn from them and eventually pass the knowledge to their parents. Schools are valuable settings for communities, such that they are interactive establishments of relations among teachers, parents, pupils, and churches. Therefore, by working with teachers one is already reaching out to pupils and parents as well. This was done in order for teachers to realize that waste can be turned into a useful resource.
Environmental Education is expected to provide skills and problem-solving approach to pupils, to find ways to cope in a sustainable way with their environment. This problemsolving approach is very important as we do not change our attitudes simply because somebody tells us do so, but rather act in the way we already know and have experience of when we encounter problems. It is therefore crucial to critically consider the kind of environmental problems we want to fight as well as the actions we want to teach our pupils. Environmental Education should help teachers to change children’s attitudes towards their surroundings and adopt a better way of acting towards their environment.
Consequently a lot of agencies including non-governmental organisations in Southern Africa are engaged in environmental education.
The Lesotho Environmental Information Network (LEINET) is a Non-Governmental Organization attached to the Institute of Education at the National University of Lesotho (NUL). One of the primary aims of LEINET is environmental education and being part of the Institute of Education working with schools is mandatory.
In order to expand its scope and involve a greater number of educational practitioners, LEINET approached possible partners for support including the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) that has been the implementing agency of the Southern African Development Community–Regional Environmental Education Programme (SADCREEP) for a number of years.
In 2002 the Regional Environmental Education Support Project (REES) was conceived with, inter alia, objectives for capacity building of NGOs whose activities have a bearing on environmental education. Hence the REES and LEINET agreed to partner and consequently signed an agreement for training Lesotho primary school teachers.
CURRENT PROJECTOne of the environmental problems prevailing in urban areas of Lesotho is littering, that contributes to untidy streets and pollution. Littering also extends to school's premises.
LEINET, considered appropriate to work with primary school teachers in Mafeteng as this district has a town centre with a lot of litter. Moreover, Mafeteng is a district that is already semi-desert and is facing serious land degradation; and good recycling projects might help improve the productivity of the land. As an environmental educator and coadministrator of LEINET, I took a lead in initiating, planning and implementing the project.
At the initial stage, Lesotho Environmental Information Network (LEINET) wanted a project to embark on littering problem by training primary school teachers in Lesotho urban schools on production of learning materials as well as other materials for home and school settings through recycling. Due to limited resources, the focus narrowed to training primary school teachers in five schools in Mafeteng. After interaction with teachers an element of exposing them to a wider range of environmental issues and problems ensued.
The project, was envisaged would benefit teachers directly who will in turn teach pupils effectively with the help of learning materials. Since schools are part of the communities, appropriate waste management could be imparted to parents of the pupils as well. From each school two teachers were nominated by their principals to participate in the project.
The main context was on waste management that will be sustainable through the forming of clubs and a district Network.
LEINET’s networking background shows that it has potential to form more networks and has outreach mechanism to communities of various levels on environmental education and awareness. LEINET has realized the need to form the Lesotho Schools' Environment Network that can eventually promote school environment clubs and eco-schools.
This project title was named “Training Teachers Workshop on Waste Management and Environmental Issues” (called the Training School Teachers Project for short). At an early stage the ‘project’ started by listening whereby the organizer, LEINET, paid attention to the learners’ expectations and therefore acceded to their suggestions for expanding the theme to include ‘environmental issues and problems’. In a way, this expanded the scope and teachers were able to relate other issues to waste management. The planning, implementation and management for the Training School Teachers Project took place over a period of eighteen months: April 2003 until October 2004.
PROJECT OBJECTIVESLEINET and SADC REES embarked on a waste management project with 10 participating teachers drawn from five primary schools in Mafeteng, namely, St Gerard’s, St John’s,
Ramokoatsi, Mount Olivet and Likhoele. The project’s aimed to:
Enhance awareness amongst teachers on the environmental problems and issues which prevail in Lesotho, particularly in urban settings and the ways towards contributing to their solutions.
Strengthen and develop skills in teaching EE using learning support materials made from recovered matter. These should promote learning by doing, hands-on and active participation model.
These aims were explored through several action research inquiry cycles with the primary schools teachers in Mafeteng.
PROJECT DESIGNThe process started by briefing and involving the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), NCDC and particularly the LEESP team to take part in identifying schools and designing workshop content, thus experiences were shared, then briefed Central Inspectorate, MOET and solicited their support. Thereafter with the help of Mafeteng District Education Officer (MDEO) we identified schools in dire need of EE, then met school principals who were already hinted about the project by the MDEO. Later on School Board members, school owners and local chiefs were briefed in order to solicit their support.
The project was designed such that a Lesotho Schools' Environmental Network was formed. Its aim is to promote ‘shared’ learning and teaching opportunities. Whilst the initial was to promote partnership in EE, avenues for exchanging other experiences, resources and expertise could be investigated. This could include eco-schools, enviroschools, greening schools, school environmental clubs and others. When SADC–Regional Environmental Education Programme Support Project started, LEINET saw it was an opportune time to fulfil these longstanding aspirations, and considered appropriate to do so by training Primary Schools teachers.
The objective was to have two separate training sessions with an interval of six months in between. The first two months of the interval was used to observe teachers at their schools, to see how far they have gone in identifying problems and solutions in developing materials and how much they had involved pupils and parents. The second workshop was based on experiences of the teachers during the interval period. It was during the second workshop that the idea of a study tour that would add more meaning and value to the teachers’ learning process was established.
ORGANISATION AND IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS
Participatory waste management in Mafeteng primary schools was framed within an action research orientation. The decision to use action research approach was influenced by Allen (2001) who argues that lasting improvement requires that the participatory action researcher helps subjects to change themselves so that their interactions create conditions for inquiry and learning, thus helping to develop the self-help competencies of people facing problems. Furthermore, Lotz (1996) asserts that action research is a form of self-reflective enquiry that can help improve the ‘rationality and justice of practitioner’s own practice.’ The major factor is that one of the project’s objectives was to establish an environmental network, this required collaboration and active participation of the people to form the network. The best method that involves collaboration and participation is the action research that is defined as “critical collaborative enquiry by reflective practitioners, who are accountable in making the results of their enquiry public, self-reflective of their practice, and engaged in participative problem solving and continuing professional development” (Zuber-Skerritt in Allen, 2001).
It is argued that action research involves three cycles that are not only complicated but also often interwoven phases of planning, action and reflection (Lotz, 1996). After planning, acting and reflecting one may proceed to form other cycles depending on the
Training of teachers on waste management workshop The workshop brought together all the 10 teachers for the project and was facilitated by three resource persons, LEINET chairperson, SADC REES Non governmental organisations coordinator and myself. We started the five-day workshop by asking the teachers to outline their expectations of the workshop, which were summed up as gaining skills that will help in protecting and conserving the environment and learning how to alleviate the environmental problems in Mafeteng Town and the District at large. The initial
discussions of teachers’ expectations gave rise to five workshop objectives:
To create awareness of environmental problems in Lesotho through action research approach.