Nobody Should Remain Behind the Journey on Ecological Literacy
The 5th Annual Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) for Colleges of Teachers’ Education and Theological Seminaries has concluded in Arba Minch, Ethiopia from July 8-9, 2022.
More than 25 participants attended the event on the theme of ‘Partnership for Environmental Literacy and Sustainable Communities’. Organized by the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology in partnership with the Southern Ethiopia CTE Network and Southern Ethiopian Evangelical Theological Colleges Network and hosted by Arab Minch College of Teachers’ Education (CTE), the conference was unique in bringing secular and religious colleges together. Opening the conference on July 8, 2022, Rev, Dr. Misgana Mathewos, EGST Director has appreciated the growth of the partnership in ESD annual events and applauded the host city of Arbaminch and the Arbaminch College of Teachers’’ Education for welcoming and facilitating the event.
Quoting Diane J. Chandler of Regent University who said that ‘Christian schools and churches are sleeping giants regarding creation care and need to arise to their ethical responsibility to advance the protection and preservation of God’s creation,’ the Director called for a joint venture in achieving environmental goals. He further emphasized that ‘eco-literacy or in theological term, eco-theology, is the agenda that requires strong partnership, mutual cooperation, and action.’ He has similarly cautioned that ‘nobody should remain behind in this journey as ecological crises has been escalating in an alarming rate – which we are witnessing its impact in our country to the extent of affecting millions of peoples and natural habitats.’ ‘We need to walk together, plan together and act together, even if our channels of accomplishing things seem to be different,’ he emphasized.
Gamo Zone Education Department Head, Mr Abraham Amsalu in his part stressed that environmental problems are related to failure in our educational system and low quality. ‘We need such events on environmental and sustainability education to improve our education quality and environmental services’, he emphasized.
Prof. Charles Hopkins, UNESCO Chair for Reorienting ESD in his video message expressed his pleasure to witness the perseverance of the networks and EGST in conducting the annual conference despite the pandemic and other national and international challenges. He indicated that ESD is embedded in nine of the 17 SDGs directly which calls for strengthening ESD professional development at different levels. He commended the networks and EGST for coordinating the 5th annual conference.
The conference was targeted to achieve the objectives of accountability in delivering ESD implementation and reporting, planning for a continuous engagement, sharing of experiences and learning best practices between and among the member colleges and networks. Professional Development Programme through capacity build training was delivered while the annual conference also deliberated on issues of emerging common issues.
The five Colleges of Teachers’ Education (CTE) and three of the four Theological Colleges (TCs) have presented their 2022 implementation reports and plans for 2023. Dilla Kale Heywet Church Ministerial Training College did not participate in the event due to conflicting organizational schedule.
The colleges in their reports demonstrated their ongoing efforts in curricular and co-curricular activities, research and training, community engagement and community services. CTE member colleges of Hawassa, Arba Minch, Bonga, Hosanna and Dilla presented their reports and plans while Hosanna Mekane Yesus Theological College, Hosanna Kale Heywet Church Ministerial Training College, and Tabor Evangelical Theological College shared their experiences.
On a professional development programme focusing on capacity building agenda, training was provided on environmental literacy focusing on ecological philosophies, the role of education in ESD, assumptions behind environmental literacy and its relation to scientific literacy, major areas and ranges of environmental literacy, key attributes of environmentally literate persons and how to measure ESD with an action research. The training was provided by Prof. Aklilu Dalelo, Professor of Geography and Environmental Education at Addis Ababa University.
Practical experiences of community services from Arba Minch University (AMU) on environmental protection were presented by Dr Teklu Wegayhu, Head of the University’s Community Services. He has presented case studies from The Nech Sar National Park comprising of the zebras and the 40 springs, the lakes and ground water resources conservation schemes where the crocodiles ranch and the Hippos are part of the catchment. He further presented environmental protection activities of AMU in the communities.
A practical field visit was made to the crocodile ranch and Arba Minch forest. The participants have further deliberated on 2023 conference agenda and endorsed Bonga College of Teachers’ Education to host the next symposium.
Closing the conference on July 9, 2022, CTE Network Chair, Mr Brihanu Deselegn acknowledged the active participation of the members and called for a more robust engagement in ESD by closing the gaps and increasing momentum at institutional and network levels.
The annual conference was established in 2015 in Hawassa after a five day professional development training by EGST and Leuphana University which was later appreciated by York
University where the UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability seats. EGST under its Centre for Environmental Stewardship and Holistic Development (CESHoD) took the lead in organizing and coordinating the networks for the annual conferences and related engagements. It was observed that the colleges have shown promising progress in implementing environmental and sustainability education in their academic teaching, research and community engagement.
The ESD initiative is one of the EGST annual events which resulted in the creation of National and International Networks, publication of articles in internationally reputed journals, dissemination of handbook and building the images of EGST and the networks locally and internationally.
It is hoped that the ESD initiative continues as an integral part of EGST’s Community Service along with teaching, research and community engagement in partnership with the networks, Leuphana University, York University and other stakeholders.