Faith-based ESD in Kenya

Achievement of education for sustainable development (ESD) requires the adoption of a holistic approach that engages a wide range of sectors and stakeholders. It further needs an overall re-orientation of education through formal, informal and non-formal learning to enhance achievement of sustainable development across sectors. Since 2010, the Kenya Organization of Environmental Education (KOEE) has worked with the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) to deliver quality education that imparts knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that lead to a holistic development of the learners, in line with the objectives of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. The objectives of the initiative are to:

a. Enhance the faith-based value system and positive behavior in the school and community to promote sustainable development.
b. Embed faith values about caring for creation into teaching on the environment in faith-sponsored schools to create a powerful link between people’s beliefs and their motivation to protect the environment.
c. Enable teachers, pupils and the wider community to acquire awareness of and sensitivity towards environmental problems.
d. Enhance teachers’ and pupils’ capacity to identify and solve sustainable development challenges, through multiple approaches in teaching and learning processes.

About ARC and KOEE

The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) is a UK-based secular international organization that works with eleven (11) major faith groups around the world to help them develop environmental programmes based on their own teachings, beliefs, strengths, practices, outreach and scriptures. In 2007 ARC developed a partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which is the UN’s global development network to help people build a better life, to work with the world’s major faiths to address issues of climate change and the natural environment. KOEE is a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded and registered in Kenya. KOEE is a member of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) International, and therefore the implementing chapter of the Eco-schools Programme in Kenya; and is also a key member and player of the Regional Center of Expertise Greater Nairobi (RCE-GN), having hosted the network during its formative phase. RCE-GN is a network of various players who are passionate about promoting sustainable development through sharing of knowledge, skills, experiences and resources – operating within Nairobi’s metropolitan region.

Why faith values?
Faiths are the largest sector of civil society worldwide. In Africa 90% of people describe themselves as either Christian or Muslim. A baseline survey carried out at the inception of the programme revealed that about 80% of schools in Kenya were connected to faiths, either as founders, managers or sponsors. Therefore, faiths can be instrumental in entrenching religious wisdom into ESD in schools, while promoting action for the environment with faith as the motivation.

A major lesson learnt from this initiative is that mainstreaming faith-based values in ESD is the surest way to achieving lasting change in behavior patterns in the school and community for sustainability. Faith-based values can make a significant contribution towards the wise use of natural resources since they help propagate the Earth Charter principles of: respecting the Earth and life in its diversity; caring for the community of life with understanding, compassion and love; building democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable and peaceful and securing the Earth’s bounty and beauty for the present and future generations. Religion can be a powerful inspiration for environmental conservation and protection; born from the fact that almost all religions uphold protection of the Earth’s diversity and its beauty as a sacred trust given to man by God. Faiths can champion environmental sustainability through schools by integrating religious values that enhance environmental conservation, particularly considering the great influence they have on the learning institutions as well as the communities from which they draw membership. Thus, a strategy for conservation that takes recognition of this potential in religions can enhance attainment of education for sustainable development.

The Faith-based ESD Journey in Kenya
The faith-based Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) initiative in Kenya was developed using the eco-schools strategy. External evaluation of the Kenya Eco-schools programme by the Danish Outdoor Council (DOC) and UNESCO found it effective in implementing ESD using schools as platforms to reach communities. The programme was piloted in ten (10) primary schools sponsored by faiths involved in the initiative across Kenya for one year. The religious institutions played a key role in identifying and mobilizing their schools, and also in helping coordinate the programme’s pilot phase. Micro-projects in the thematic areas of water, energy, waste, agriculture, biodiversity, health and climate change were implemented in the schools, after the schools’ local needs were identified through an environmental audit.

Evaluation of the pilot phase revealed that the programme was a great success, managing to enhance behavior change among the teachers, learners and general community members to take action for the environment.

As one of the major outputs of the initiative, ARC and KOEE mobilized key stakeholders to develop a Primary School Teacher’s Toolkit, in collaboration with religious leaders, curriculum experts, environmental experts, teachers and policy makers. The completed toolkit was launched in Nairobi in July 2013, and endorsed by leaders of the three major faiths that were involved in the process (Christianity, Hinduism and Islam). It is hoped that, although developed specifically for the Kenyan context, the toolkit will find widespread application in other regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, with some adaptation to the specific contexts. In order to find wide application in Kenyan schools, the toolkit is currently undergoing validation process at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD).

Under the initiative various activities have and are being undertaken: teacher training (as trainers of trainers – TOTs), awareness creation, partnership development and networking, resource material development, stakeholder forums, micro-project implementation, monitoring and evaluation. With overwhelming demand already witnessed after the launch of the toolkit, collaboration with like-minded partners holds the key to spreading this initiative beyond the pilot phase. With the government of Kenya embracing use of information technology (IT) for teaching and learning in schools, plans are on-going to provide the toolkit with digital content. This will not only be a giant milestone in the ESD agenda, but will also add value to the government’s initiative by providing digital curriculum support material – which is currently inadequate. Promoting ESD in RCE-GN

The faith-based ESD initiative began in Kenya on a pilot basis, with a view to reaching the rest of the African region over time. In developing this programme, several consultative forums involving a wide range of stakeholders from the Sub-Saharan region were conducted at different times and levels. While the religious fraternity has led the way in this initiative, other key stakeholders were drawn from various sectors such as education, environment, civil society as well as the private sector. In line with the operation of the RCE Greater Nairobi, the initiative has added value to the RCE’s education sector agenda of re-orienting curricula and improving quality of education.

During the pilot phase of the initiative, more than one hundred (100) teachers and faith leaders were trained on mainstreaming of faith-values into ESD, including the relevant methodologies. Through collaboration with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, the primary school curriculum was assessed and a curriculum matrix developed to guide teachers in mainstreaming the faith values. In developing the programme, KOEE embarked on a partnership-building, dialogue, advocacy, lobbying and public awareness agenda involving all the key stakeholders drawn from the private, public and civil society sectors.

The future for Faith-based ESD

The faith-based initiative is now ready for up-scaling in Kenya and the wider African region. Tanzania is the first to benefit, as ARC and KOEE move to hold a major conference in Dar es Salaam this month (September), involving Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), the major faiths, policy makers and development partners. Uganda is next on line, earmarked for next year, before rolling it to the horn of Africa. Alongside scaling of the programme, plans are underway to develop the non-formal faith-based ESD initiative to cater for the section of the community that is outside the formal system of education across the globe – for example, youth groups, Sunday schools, madrassas. This is in recognition of the fact that there is a need to sustain gains made in the formal system by non-formal initiatives targeting children, youth and even adults out of school – through their religious institutions.

Currently, KOEE and ARC are holding discussions with various partners with a view to looping them in to support scaling the entire initiative for both the formal and non-formal education. The United Nations Environment Progamme (UNEP) office in Nairobi has shown interest in supporting the non-formal initiative through its on-going TUNZA programme. KOEE is also in consultation with the Ministry of Education to partner in taking the entire ESD agenda in a nation-wide programme as envisaged in the new National Education Sector Support Programme - NESSP (2013-2017). This will provide another avenue for furthering the formal part of faith-based ESD initiative. Act! Kenya has also shown strong interest in supporting the non-formal initiative working with faiths on a climate change programme.

It is hoped that more partners will come on board to support the entire faith-based initiative – both the formal and non-formal, partly because pooling together of resources is necessary to synergize the process but also because this is a powerful way of promoting both education for sustainable development and action to protect the environment.