Zimbabwes environmental education programme and its implications for sustainable development

Mapira, Jemitias (2014-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The environmental education (EE)-sustainable development (SD) nexus has generated much research and debate at local, national and global levels (Fien, 1993). Although the term EE is quite old, dating back to 1948 in Paris (Palmer, 1998), during the last three decades, it has regained global currency due to numerous environmental challenges that are confronting our planet Earth, including: climate change, land degradation, desertification, and de-forestation, pollution and ozone depletion. The Rio Earth Summit of 1992 generated a new zeal in the provision of EE throughout the world. Since then, many countries have adopted it as a remedial strategy to address these environmental challenges. In Zimbabwe, EE dates back to 1954 during the colonial era when it was provided in the form of conservation education among farmers and in schools and colleges (Chikunda, 2007). The Natural Resources Board (NRB), a department in the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture (which was established in 1941) played a key role in both research and the dissemination of EE (Whitlow, 1988). However, throughout the colonial era and up to the end of the millennium, the country did not have a written EE policy document. Consequently, various government departments and organisations, which provided EE, did so individually. However, this fragmented approach proved to be ineffective and had to be abandoned through the promulgation of the Environmental Management Act (Chapter 20:27) of 2002. This development led to the establishment of an environmental management agency (EMA), which harmonised the provision of EE at local and national levels. This study based on information that was collected between 2011 and 2014, examines Zimbabwe‟s EE programme and its implications for sustainable development. It employed a mixed methods research design which enabled the researcher to employ both qualitative and quantitative approaches in data collection, interpretation and analysis. Derived from the pragmatic school of thought, this research design allows researchers to triangulate with different methods without provoking epistemological conflicts from other schools of thought. The study shows that nearly 84% of the EE in the country is provided by the formal education sector (which includes schools, colleges and universities) while the remaining 16% is derived from non-formal and informal education sources such as: EMA, some government ministries and departments, and several non-governmental organisations (NGOs). However, the bulk of the EE provided in Zimbabwe is biophysical in nature and is geared at transmitting facts about rather than for the environment (Fien, 1993; Chikunda, 2007 and Mapira, 2012a). Consequently, it does not instil a sense of environmental stewardship among ordinary citizens as reflected by increasing cases of environmental crimes including: land degradation, veldt fire outbreaks, deforestation, and the poaching of elephants, rhinos, and other wildlife resources. Furthermore, most people lack a deep knowledge of basic concepts such as EE, SD and ESD, indicating the weakness of the country‟s EE efforts. The study makes several recommendations for the improvement of the country‟s EE programme, including: more funding of EMA and its partners so that they can execute their mandate more efficiently, and revising school and college curricula with a view to infusing EE in courses and syllabi. Other recommendations are that EE should be made compulsory in all formal educational institutions while the state should take environmental issues more seriously than it has done in the past. For example, top government officials should refrain from the poaching of endangered wildlife resources like elephants and rhinos if their country‟s EE policies have to be taken seriously at the grass roots level. Stiffer penalties should be meted out to those found guilty by courts of law while ordinary citizens need more educational campaigns if they have to develop environmental sensitivity and a sense of stewardship, which are necessary ingredients for the success of any country‟s EE programme. Furthermore, alternatives of making a living should be created for villagers and peasants so that they do not have to damage their environment in order to survive. Finally, this study argues that if all the above challenges are fully addressed, Zimbabwe‟s EE programme can achieve its goals in the long run.

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