Mainstreaming environment and sustainability: an analysis of a master’s in environmental science and a tree-planting project at Chancellor College, University of Malawi

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  In 2004, Mainstreaming Environment and Sustainability in African Universities (MESA) was formally launched by UNEP, UNESCO and the Association of African Universities. This paper sets the stage for a critical analysis of ESD by reviewing historical
  Mainstreaming environment and sustainability:an analysis of a master’s in environmental scienceand a tree-planting project at Chancellor College,University of Malawi Sosten S. Chiotha Published online: 23 June 2010   Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010 Abstract  In 2004, Mainstreaming Environment and Sustainability in AfricanUniversities (MESA) was formally launched by UNEP, UNESCO and the Asso-ciation of African Universities. This paper sets the stage for a critical analysis of ESD by reviewing historical perspectives of conservation in Africa as a means of appreciating the need for African universities to mainstream both environmentalconcerns and those relating to sustainability. Two case studies from ChancellorCollege, University of Malawi are discussed to illustrate that good practice inmainstreaming environment and sustainability requires challenges to be refined andknowledge to be extended on an ongoing basis. To analyse the reorientation of thecurriculum for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), the paper examinesthe introduction of an Environmental Science Master’s programme at the collegeand notes how environmental issues are covered. The article also looks at thecollege’s tree-planting programme in terms of the training, research and outreachinvolved. Keywords  Education for sustainable development    Conservation   Lifelong learning    Mainstreaming environment and sustainability   Inter-disciplinarity    Peri-urban Re´sume´  Inte´grer l’environnement et le de´veloppement durable : analyse d’uncours de maıˆtrise en sciences environnementales et d’un projet d’arboriculture a`l’institut Chancellor de l’universite´ du Malawi—L’UNEP, l’UNESCO et l’Asso-ciation des Universite´s Africaines ont officiellement lance´ en 2004 le MESA(Mainstreaming Environment and Sustainability in African Universities / Inte´grerl’environnement et le de´veloppement durable dans le cursus des universite´s S. S. Chiotha ( & )Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) Southern and Eastern Africa,Chancellor College, University of Malawi, Zomba, Malawie-mail:  1 3 Int Rev Educ (2010) 56:287–298DOI 10.1007/s11159-010-9156-x  africaines). Cet article pre´pare le terrain pour une analyse critique de l’e´ducation aude´veloppement durable (EDD), en abordant les perspectives historiques de con-servation en Afrique en vue d’e´valuer le besoin des universite´s africaines d’inte´grera` la fois les pre´occupations environnementales et celles relatives au de´veloppementdurable. L’auteur pre´sente deux e´tudes de cas effectue´es par l’institut Chancellor del’universite´ du Malawi, pour de´montrer que les bonnes pratiques d’inte´gration del’environnement et du de´veloppement durable exigent de de´finir les de´fis etd’enrichir en continu les connaissances. Dans le but d’analyser la re´forme du cur-riculum en EDD, il examine l’introduction dans cet institut d’un programme demaıˆtrise en sciences environnementales et rele`ve la manie`re dont y sont traite´es lesquestions environnementales. Il e´tudie en outre le programme d’arboriculture del’institut du point de vue de la formation, de la recherche et de sa diffusion. Zusammenfassung  MainstreamingvonUmweltundNachhaltigkeit:AnalyseeinesMaster-Studiengangs Umweltwissenschaften und eines Baumpflanzungsprojekts amChancellor College der Universita¨t Malawi—Das Programm MESA (MainstreamingEnvironment and Sustainability in African Universities) wurde offiziell 2004 vonUNEP, UNESCO und der Association of African Universities (Verband der Univer-sita¨ten Afrikas) gegru¨ndet. Dieses Papier schafft die Voraussetzungen fu¨r eine kriti-sche Analyse der Bildung fu¨r nachhaltige Entwicklung (BNE). Dazu wird derUmweltschutz im historischen Kontext Afrikas betrachtet, um deutlich zu machen,wie wichtig es ist, dass afrikanische Universita¨ten Umweltschutz und Nachhaltigkeitals Anliegen auf allen Ebenen integrieren. Anhand zweier Fallstudien aus demChancellorCollegederUniversita¨tMalawiwirdgezeigt,dassdieAufgabenstellungenpra¨zisiert und die Kenntnisse laufend erweitert werden mu¨ssen, um ein optimalesMainstreamingvonUmweltundNachhaltigkeitzuerreichen.UmdieNeuausrichtungdes Lehrplans unter dem Gesichtspunkt der Bildung fu¨r nachhaltige Entwicklung zuanalysieren, werden in diesem Aufsatz die Einfu¨hrung eines Masterprogramms fu¨rUmweltwissenschaften und die Thematisierung von Umweltproblemen am Collegeuntersucht. In dem Artikel geht es außerdem um Ausbildung und Forschung imZusammenhang mit dem Baumpflanzungsprogramm des Colleges sowie um dessenReichweite. Resumen  Incorporarlaperspectivademedioambienteysostenibilidad:Ana´lisisdeun curso de Master en Ciencias Ambientales y de un Proyecto de Plantacio´n deA´rboles en el Chancellor College, Universidad de Malawi—En 2004 fue lanzadooficialmente por el PNUMA, la UNESCO y la Asociacio´n de Universidades Afri-canas, el proyecto de Incorporacio´n de la Perspectiva de Medio Ambiente y Sos-tenibilidadenUniversidadesAfricanas,tambie´ndenominadoMESA (MainstreamingEnvironment and Sustainability in African Universities) . Este trabajo ofrece el marcopara un ana´lisis crı´tico de EDS, pasando revista a las perspectivas histo´ricas deconservacio´n en A´frica como una forma de apreciar la necesidad de que las univer-sidadesafricanasincorporenunaperspectivatantodecuestionesambientalescomodelas que se relacionan con la sostenibilidad. Este trabajo se ocupa de dos estudios decaso del Chancellor College de la Universidad de Malawi para ilustrar que las buenaspra´cticas en la incorporacio´n de la perspectiva de medio ambiente y sostenibilidad 288 S. S. Chiotha  1 3  necesitan de una redefinicio´n de desafı´os y de una ampliacio´n de conocimientosbasada en el desarrollo permanente. A efectos de analizar la reorientacio´n del currı´-culo delaEducacio´nparaelDesarrolloSostenible (ESD),examinalaintroduccio´ndeunprogramadeMasterenCienciasAmbientalesenesteinstitutoytomanotadeco´mocubre temas ambientales. Adema´s, este artı´culo se ocupa del programa de plantacio´ndea´rboles delinstitutoen cuantoa entrenamiento,investigacio´nycompromisosocialque implica. Past perceptions of conservation Mainstreaming of environment and sustainability concerns in universities involvestheir systematic integration not only into a wide range of disciplines, faculties,programmes and courses, but also into university policies, management and practicesand student activities (MESA Report 2008). To understand the mainstreaming of theenvironment in development initiatives (including education), one needs toappreciate early perceptions of conservation that were synonymous with thepreservation of habitats, species, wildlife and wilderness (Anderson and Grove1999). According to Agg and Utting (2002), many conservation and development agencies still equate sustainable development with environmental protection whilethe key element, people’s needs, is marginalised. Hence many developmentinitiatives have not made the necessary transition to sustainable development. Pastconservation efforts were narrow in focus, being championed by specialists in fieldssuch as botany and zoology. According to Agg and Utting (2002) the upsurge of international concern for environmental problems in the years leading to the 1992   : - – 2004 ,,.-,,,.,.,-,.,. Mainstreaming environment and sustainability 289  1 3  Earth Summit sparked a vast amount of research, writing and debate on conservationand natural resource management. For example, United Nations Research Institutefor Social Development (UNRISD) analysed major concerns about environmentalissues and policies as well as interventions associated with conservation and naturalresource management in developing countries. The persistence of environmentalproblems despite conservation was explained by the observed limited attention tosocial relations, tensions between environmental protection and human welfare andother issues (Agg and Utting 2002). Mainstreaming environmental issues The concept of mainstreaming cross-cutting issues such as the environment intoexisting programmes is one fraught with multiple misunderstandings, and theprocess itself is subject to divergent interpretations ranging from outright rejectionto superficial treatment (through treating the issue as a somewhat inconvenient add-on) to profound integration of the issue into all aspects of professional and personalpractice (NEEP 2004). Mainstreaming may also be considered as a continuum inrelation to the host programme from ‘‘diffident passenger’’ to ‘‘dominant driver’’,but a compromise position of ‘‘active passenger’’(navigator) may be morecomfortable and realistic (NEEP 2004). Specific to African universities, thefoundation for mainstreaming environment and sustainability has been championedby Mainstreaming Environment and Sustainability in African Universities (MESA)coordinated by UNEP, UNESCO and the Association of African Universities.According to the MESA Report (2008), mainstreaming encompasses all three corefunctions of the university, namely teaching, research and community engagement,and includes management and partnership. Furthermore, mainstreaming environ-ment and sustainability is considered value-based and involves transformativelearning processes. It involves new ways of thinking about teaching, research andcommunity engagement and represents a transformative agenda that is change-oriented at institutional and societal levels (MESA Report 2008). Role of education The role of education in natural resource management has been evolving. Some of the earliest attempts to organised environmental education in southern Africa werearound the period 1863–1865 when lectures were given on the dangers of veldtburning and forest destruction (Grove 1999). However, significant global effortsregarding environmental education include the Stockholm Declaration on thehuman environment in 1972 (UNESCO) which emphasised the need for environ-mental education from grade school all the way to adulthood, as did the TbilisiDeclaration in 1977 (UNESCO-UNEP). In Malawi, the first environmentaleducation workshop was organised in 1983 (UNESCO Malawi Report 1983) andemphasised that environmental education had to be mainstreamed in all educationactivities (formal, informal, and non-formal), starting from grade school. 290 S. S. Chiotha  1 3  Environmental education in Africa was given prominence through establishment of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) in 1985. At itsfirst session, AMCEN adopted a programme of action on environmental educationand training at all levels of society by orienting the programme of action towards thesolution of specific current environmental problems (Toure and Aquah 2006). Whenuniversity administrators signed the Tailloires declaration in 1990 they pledgedcommitment to higher education for sustainable development and in 2004, the UNdeveloped an international implementation scheme highlighting the role of universities in strengthening ESD in society (MESA Report 2008).This paper has selected the Masters in Environmental Science (MES) and theTree Planting Project at Chancellor College to illustrate the process of mainstrea-ming environment and sustainability. The case studies highlight best practice aswell as challenges. University of Malawi’s Master’s course in environmental science In 1998 the University of Malawi Senate approved introduction of a PostgraduateProgramme for Masters in Environmental Science (MES), based at ChancellorCollege (University of Malawi Calendar 2006), responding to calls for environ-mental education at all levels. MES was designed to have taught course-work andself-directed research study. This programme was faculty-based, with departmentsmanaging components of the curriculum, an attempt to move away fromenvironment being equated with specialist fields such as botany and zoology.Attempts were made towards multi-disciplinarity, with MES coordinators comingfrom departments such as Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics. While MES was acreation of and managed by the Faculty of Science, it looked outside for expertisenot traditionally available in a Faculty of Science. The Faculty of Law was assignedEnvironmental Law and Policy, while the Faculty of Humanities was assignedEthics and Communication for Development, and these topics are in core modules.Furthermore, the Faculty of Social Science has been assigned Resource andEnvironmental Economics.Nevertheless, mainstreaming environment and sustainability is much more thana list of topics and the bringing-together of experts from diverse fields. It has to dowith the integration of the subject matter from the different disciplines. The MESneeds to formulate a guiding framework for inter-disciplinarity for both staff (whoare still specialists despite participating in a multi-disciplinary programme) andstudents, who also come from specialised background. This reorganisation wouldbe the second phase of reorienting MES and it is recommended that this be done inthe next 5 years of the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (DESD).The MES curriculum review in 2005, in which diverse stakeholders wereconsulted, was a necessary step in the right direction. Further engagement isthrough course instructors from external institutions or from other faculties in areaswhere expertise is not available in the Faculty of Science. This approach is cost-effective because it would be expensive for a programme of this nature to have itsown staff. At times other departments may put their own departmental activities as Mainstreaming environment and sustainability 291  1 3
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