The Horn of Africa has been affected by recurrent climatic shocks. Climate change and its risks have exacerbated temperatures, extended droughts, floods, cyclones, torrential rains, and biodiversity loss. Unfortunately, schools are heavily affected by these environmental challenges. In an environment of ongoing and deepening climate crises, children and vulnerable families in the region are affected by water scarcity, poor water quality, poor sanitation and inadequate hygiene practices in schools. These are particularly disastrous for older children who spend longer hours in school. This project sought to address these issues by piloting a model Eco-School with direct interventions addressing school environments. The Eco-Schools model advocates for holistic interventions that help schools better adapt to existing environmental challenges while empowering children to take the role of key actors in the dissemination of effective and innovative practices. This pilot project aimed to provide evidence of the value and potential development of Eco-Schools in the region.
The project’s main finding was the compatibility and need for Eco-School systems in this region. Despite the climate challenges affecting everyday life in Somaliland, initiatives to improve school curricula to encourage practical environmental education should be present. Instead, few environmental projects are introduced to schools and disappear after their end dates, applying no permanently sustainable structural or institutional change. This project is the first to tackle such a problem using an integrated and multifaceted approach to encourage cooperation, knowledge sharing and co-creation with different stakeholders, promoting unity and partnership for the endorsement of a permanent and recognised institutional curriculum that boosts relevant and contextual practical environmental education for sustainable development and futures.
The project found that communal environmental consciousness was lacking key elements due to factors such as the absence of easily accessible public support systems providing both informative and practical environmental rehabilitation guidance. Project participants expressed an innate desire for an improved, productive and fruitful environment but lacked the know-how.
Reoccurring climate afflictions, depleted farm and range lands and the alarming rates of internally displaced people who have fled their farms have left many believing that environmental rehabilitation is a problem requiring large-scale government and international attention. The project found that teaching children and teachers consistent small steps to improve their environment developed their perception and aligned their visions. Transparent strategic environmental systems are missing in school settings that could bridge vital environmental distresses.
Students are crucial for promoting and organising positive environmental change throughout the project. In Somali societies, young people are absent in decision-making circles despite 72% of the population being under 35. The potential positive influence of young people expressing themselves and taking the lead was evident during activities. As children’s confidence grew, so did the project’s impacts and sustainability. The Eco-school model addressed an essential developmental need by providing students, teachers, and stakeholders a platform to speak equally on equally pressing matters. The platform has allowed young people to share their ideas and make collective decisions, assisting them to develop interpersonal skills that can shape a stronger, more sustainable society.
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