The Fourth Annual Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) was completed from October 15-16, 2021 in Hawassa, Ethiopia. Co-organized in partnership with the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology and Hawassa College of Teachers’ Education, the annual event brought together five Colleges of Teachers Education (CTE) Network, four Evangelical Theological Seminaries Network and Robe College of Teachers’ Education from Oromia as a guest college. A total of 25 deans, instructors and stakeholders representing the colleges and other partners participated at the conference.
Opening the conference, EGST Director, Rev. Dr Misgana Mathewos remarked that EGST takes Environmental and Sustainability Education seriously. He further noted that the issue of Environmental Protection is a common agenda that brought partners together and united both the state-owned teachers training colleges and the church owned theological institutions.
He also reminded that ‘the earth and its resources must be used and preserved properly’ which is the purpose of the networks and the partnership.’
The Director also explained that ‘the era of divide between the secular and sacred in academic and practical worlds has come to an end with the cognizance of matters that need the concern and action of all humanity for the betterment of present and future generations. He further called upon stakeholders, particularly the theologians to be ‘challenged by the concern and action about environmental protection from classroom curriculum to practical field work.’
Urging the participants, the Director said that’ this network is a unique venture in the country and arguably one of the few unique ones in the world,’ to be kept functional, expanded and influential ‘across secular and ecclesial spheres in South Ethiopia and beyond.’ He reaffirmed that ‘EGST will do all it can to uphold the development and expansion of this network.’
Addressing the participants, Sidama Regional State Education Bureau Vice Head, Ato Teklu Adula in his part appreciated the efforts made by the networks as a forum of learning to promote environmental issues in the region and the country. He also assured the support and commitment of his bureau for the networks.
Representing the Hawssa City Mayor’s Office, Head of the Hawassa City Administration Education Department, Ato Daniel Desta, promised the commitment of the City Mayor and the assistance of his department for the networks on ESD.
On a video message extended to the conference participants, Professor Charles Hopkins, UNESCO Chair for Reorienting Teachers Education at York University, Toronto congratulated Hawassa Teachers Education College and EGST for hosting the summit. Professor Charles underlined that ‘your conference is so in line with the current priorities on global academic collaboration, and it’s in synergy with other innovative and forward-looking higher education institutions that focus on teacher education, and sharing their best practices regarding education for sustainable development.
He further said that ‘as much as academic cooperation has been severely interrupted during this pandemic, …it’s wonderful, you ‘re able to keep connection and working relationships alive. Now, this collaboration is as important as academics and all higher education professionals, so in a unique position of the society, as seen neutral and trusted stakeholders, the service multipliers on the local level, they bring new ideas into their institutions, and inspire their students into action.’
He added that the learnings and outcomes of this conference further strengthen the various roles such as roles within own college institutions, roles in public service, and even more in advising policy makers in holistically moving toward sustainable development, particularly through Sustainable Development Goal 4.
‘As the shapers of future educators, future societal leaders, and as on-going influencers of public policy, colleges of education and theological institutions, play a crucial role in creating a more sustainable future’, the UNESSCO chair emphasized.
He concluded that ‘working in a collaborative and collective manner is important. And you’re gathering annually to address the national education discussion and implementation plans forward regarding sustainability as nationally an important strategy.’
A training session on the theme of ‘environmental literacy’ was facilitated by Prof. Aklilu Dalelo, Co-programme leader of the Development Studies programme at EGST. Presenting the training, he encouraged participants to keep working on enhancing environmental knowledge, skills and professional attitudes in their respective colleges and seminaries and exercise action research towards improving environmental literacy. Professor Aklilu further motivated colleges to strengthen their efforts in national and international engagement.
Under the overarching theme on ‘Partnership for Environmental Literacy and Sustainable Communities’, the conference focused on deliberating issues reported from the colleges, made work plans and decided on the agenda of the next annual workshop.
The objectives of the annual event are to report back on the progress of individual colleges and networks, to plan for a continuous engagement as individual institutions and members of the network, to learn and share experiences and best practices between and among the members and networks and to deliberate on emerging common issues related to education for sustainable development.
The two networks and EGST has deliberated on the plans of the next annual conference to be hosted by Arba Minch CTE in July 2022.
EGST PRC, Addis Ababa, October 2021.