On October 6th, 2023, I was happy to be part of a meeting with young leaders discussing Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) for Uganda’s plan in 2030. Madam Rosie Agoi, who is the Secretary general of UNESCO in Uganda, officially started the meeting. She encouraged the young people to be creative and think differently by getting involved in economic activities that would change their lifestyles. She even shared her son’s story, who chose to be a farmer instead of a lawyer after studying law at University. I couldn’t resist making a little joke to catch everyone’s attention about criticizing her for using her son as an example.
But Madam Rosie, being experienced, didn’t let my joke bother her. She continued to explain why it’s important for young people to spread the word about ESD and Uganda’s plan for 2030. According Dr. George Muganga’s presentation, Education for Sustainable Development is a way of learning that helps us deal with all sorts of challenges in life, like society, money, culture, and the environment. It teaches us good values, knowledge, and skills so we can make wise choices that help nature, make money, and make society fair for everyone. It’s like making a promise to make the world better forever.
In my analysis, I found that sustainable education relies on good schools that provide useful knowledge, a society that teaches important values, and industries that offer practical skills that last a long time. We need to promote sustainable education because Uganda has been working hard to improve its education system for many years. More kids can go to school now, especially in primary and vocational training. In 2017, more kids started primary school than expected, and vocational training nearly tripled from 2012/2013 to 2018/2019. But there’s still a problem: not many students finish primary school, and even fewer move on to secondary school. Only three out of ten students who start primary school finish it. And of those who do finish, only 61% go to secondary school. The education system focuses too much on tests and not enough on skills, abilities, and new ideas. Our knowledge and skills are also not as good as those in our neighboring countries like Kenya and Tanzania, as shown in a report by the World Bank in 2018.
As the result, most young people in Uganda who complete their education struggle to secure employment. Uganda, having the world’s second-youngest population with 8 million individuals aged 15 to 30, faces a challenging situation. If we don’t transform our education system to implement sustainable education for development that teach people how to generate job opportunities rather than solely seeking them, our nation could face difficulties ahead. Already each year, 400,000 young people enter the job market, yet only 80,000 formal jobs are accessible. Given the rapid population growth, there may be 48 million job seekers by 2040. We must take action now because youth unemployment can lead to miss opportunities for our country’s growth.
Education for Sustainable Development is all about how education helps us achieve a better future. It gives people the power to make things better. It’s not just an extra thing; it’s the next big thing in education we must attain. ESD means putting ideas about taking care of the Earth and making life better into what we learn. It’s about making sure that education and making the world better go hand in hand.
Even though we might not all agree on exactly what “sustainable development” means, everyone seems to agree that it should lead to making the Earth healthier, making society fairer, and helping people have more money, not just taking care of the environment.
Uganda’s plan for 2030, called NESD, is going to be put into action using a worldwide method. This method is all about making ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) an important part of what UNESCO and its member countries are doing to reach the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). In Uganda, this plan will be linked to the country’s way of making development sustainable, which is a big plan. This plan will also match up with Uganda’s goals (NDP) and the worldwide SDG goals. There are three big ideas from around the world that will be really important for making this plan work.
In the first place, the NESD plan for 2030, learners are really important. We want to focus on how they can change and become better. This means looking at their skills, what they want to do, and where they live. We want to help them break free from old ways and try new things that are responsible and good for the Earth. To do this, we need to give them more ways to learn and change their way of thinking. The place where they learn should respect their differences and teach them about the world’s complexities and how to live in a way that’s good for the future. We will use different kinds of learning, like formal and informal education, to help them become better people.
Apart from individual changes, there are bigger systems and rules that affect how people learn and live. Some of these systems were made a long time ago, but they still affect us and will affect future generations. It’s very important to have a balance between the environment, society, and money, and this balance should not just be something we want, but something we need. To make this happen, we have to recognize this balance and try to keep it, even if it’s complicated.
Right now, the way Uganda’s economy works, its education system, and how things are made and grown are not good for this balance. We might also face new problems like disasters, refugees, and people moving to Uganda, and we’ll need to change how things work to handle them better. These problems are connected to poverty, so we have to take a good look at where we are and where we want to be. This means dealing with deep-rooted things like politics, history, society, and money. It might be tough at first, but it’s the right thing to do. We need to make big changes in how we treat the environment, stop corruption, and improve education.
The world, including Uganda, is slowly but surely adopting new technologies. The COVID-19 pandemic showed us how important technology is for things like education, jobs, making things, and getting things to people. So, knowing how to use technology is now really important for everyone’s survival. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) should help people learn the knowledge and skills they need to use technology. It should also help everyone adjust to this tech future, making sure it’s fair and makes sense.
But we should be careful with the technology we use. We need to make sure it doesn’t mess up our cultures or how we live together. For example, students might use phones and tablets for learning, but they should use them in a good way, not for bad things. We also need to protect students from problems like hacking, bad stuff on the Internet, and mean behavior online. Sometimes, we might use machines and tools that do tasks for us, but we should still understand how they work and why they give certain answers.
In conclusion, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is about helping learners grow, learn useful skills, and take care of the environment. We want them to farm responsibly and treat everyone with respect. Learners can learn in different ways, like at school or through fun activities. We also need to think about the important rules that affect our lives. It’s crucial to maintain a balance between nature, society, and money, but our current economy and schools don’t support this. We might face new problems like disasters, refugees, and immigrants, so we need to change how things work. To do this, we should look at politics, history, society, and money to make the environment better, reduce corruption, and improve education. Technology is becoming more important, so ESD should teach people to use it wisely without harming our cultures or society. By focusing on students’ growth, finding the right balance, and using technology wisely, Uganda can move towards a better future, even with limited resources.