INCREASING SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATION IN HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS IN AFRICA

The phenomenon of climate change and sustainability continues to generate debate among scholars, practitioners and decision-makers across the globe and calls for action among institutions, governments, and stakeholders to develop interventions for mitigation and adaption.

The informal, non-formal and formal education sectors are critical in addressing this challenge. The need exists to explore the potential of education systems in promoting mitigation and adaptation to climate change. The Paris Agreement 2015 emphasised the critical role that education can play when parties reaffirmed their commitment to “the importance of education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information and cooperation at all levels on climate change”.

Education and higher education in Africa can be vital in addressing environmental challenges like climate change and promoting sustainability. Such institutions integrate aspects of sustainability in their curriculum, research programs, policy engagement programs, engaging communities on sustainability issues, and coming up with innovations to address environmental problems through their research activities. Higher Education Institutes (HEI) have a wide range of Faculty/units based on various academic disciplines through which climate change and sustainability education can be mainstreamed.

FAR-LeaF’s Dr David Ssekamatte of the Uganda Management Institute in Kampala, Uganda, is researching this matter. His research project is “Cultivating climate change and sustainability education in Business and management training at Higher Education Institutions in the African Context: A multiple case of Uganda Management Institute and Nkuma University in Uganda”.

The project investigates the integration of climate change and sustainability education in business and management training at the two case institutions. He uses a pragmatist philosophical perspective and adopts a mixed methods approach to understanding the phenomenon. His case institutions were purposely selected because they offer business and management training but are diverse in ownership: Uganda Management Institute (UMI) is government-owned, while Nkumba University is privately owned. Dr Ssekamatte has been collecting data from administrators, lecturers, and students.

He argues that the potential for pro-sustainability behaviour change through climate change and sustainability education among students of business and management education can contribute significantly to a more sustainable world. Sustainability education has been an influential concept in many different arenas, such as economy, policy, philosophy, organisations’ management, leadership, and marketing. It could be better exploited and established furthermore in business and management education. Business schools and business education have the highest impact on increasing environmental awareness and sustainability and can incentivise change in values and enable pro-sustainability behaviours.

Business and management education in HEIs, especially in Africa, has the potential to integrate climate change and sustainability education in their curricula across the various disciplines to impart the necessary knowledge, skills, values, attitudes and competencies that the learners should be equipped with; and to develop and conduct scientific research and promoting innovation on climate change and sustainability to generate knowledge and environmental challenges, impacts, and sustainable strategies and practices.

HEIs can develop teachers who can act and participate in society as agents of change, in the private and public spheres, on a local, national, and global scale. They can engage policymakers to create awareness of policy options for sustainability and reforms in various sectors, including education, to solve contemporary environmental problems and prevent new environmental issues. They can empower communities through their community engagement function to exercise their environmental rights and duties, identify the underlying structural causes of environmental degradation, and develop the willingness and competencies for critical and active engagement and civic participation to address the structural causes.

Business schools and business education have the highest impact on increasing environmental awareness and sustainability and can incentivise change in values and enable pro-sustainability behaviours.


Dr Ssekamatte’s key research question is: How can business and management training at higher education institutions be organised and restructured to integrate climate change and sustainability knowledge, skills and attitudes in the curricula and institutional practices? He has been examining the status of climate change and sustainability education in business and management training at the case institutions, exploring how business and management educators conceive climate change and sustainability; and what knowledge and skills most inform their perceptions of these concepts.

He is examining the mechanisms for integrating climate change and sustainability education into the business and management training at the case institutions and identifying the challenges that business and management educators face in integrating climate change and sustainability in their study and research programs. He will also determine the critical success factors for effectively integrating climate change and sustainability education into business and management training at UMI and Nkumba University.

The study is expected to add to the theoretical and empirical scientific literature on climate change and sustainability education in the African context, which is rather scanty now, and also result in policy briefs to be used in engaging policymakers and actors in the business and management education institutions to reflect on the need to effectively integrate climate change and sustainability education in their study and research programs. The findings may contribute to policy and a review of institutional culture towards climate and sustainability-friendly practices within the case institutions and other similar institutions of higher learning in Uganda.

Heidi Sonnekus | FAR-LeaF Program

 

The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) is a fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.