According to Ted Turner, Founder and Chairman, United Nations Foundation ‘Education is the foundation for Sustainable Development, not only does quality education, especially for girls, help to improve health and livelihood outcomes, it also contributes to active and informed global citizens. Educating the next generation of leaders about the importance of protecting their environment and combating climate change is key investment for a sustainable planet and future for all’. On 5th of February 2016, Aid for Rural Education Access Initiative (AREAi) officially launched one of its newly introduced project, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Forum in tandem to this universal aspiration of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals leveraging on the significance of Goal Four which revolves around Quality Education.
Designed as a unique platform to create linkages that connect conventional classroom learning (elementary education) with the development of appropriate skills and values necessary to shape a sustainable future and build crop of active global citizens and responsible leaders, the maiden edition of the ESD Forum was held at Iseoluwa Comprehensive College Ile-Ife with focus on four thematic areas namely Climate Change, Gender Equality, Peace and Intercultural Dialogue as well as Water, Sanitation and Hygiene(WASH). While delivering his opening remarks and explaining the vision behind the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Forum, the Executive Director of AREAi, Prince Olanrewaju Gideon emphasized the need to educate today’s learners on various local issues and global challenges and how best they can be empowered with the requisite skills and knowledge to creatively and proactively solve pressing societal issues around them and encouraged the students to full and active participation in the highlighted activities of the Forum.
Through interactive break-out sessions, Ayo Bello Hussainat of Ladies Circle International, Daniel Falonipe of Nigeria Youth Action for Water, Odanye Kehinde and Prince Olanrewaju Gideon both of AREAi, took turns to engage the students, igniting discussions around the focus themes as a shared and open space for them as young learners to acquire more knowledge and develop new skills. After an insightful discourse on how climate change can be best addressed at the local level, the students learnt how the principle of ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’ can be creatively deployed to tackle environmental pollution in their daily lives. The students also demonstrated personal acceptance of cleanliness as a sustainable lifestyle and commitment to participation in the WASH Sector development after being made to understand the interconnectedness of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in relation to sustainable development. As a means of using Education to promote Peace, the students were enlightened on the need to tolerate and respect people of different cultural and religious backgrounds. Learning about the various forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, the students opined several solutions to address the barriers against women in the society. The need for female participation in societal development at all levels, which represents a vital tool for socio-economic growth was stressed.
Other highlights of the forum include: capacity enhancing exercises, Talent Hunt Sessions and presentation of writing materials as gifts to active contributors of the break-out sessions. While receiving feedback after the event, the students expressed their eagerness to participate in subsequent forums that will focus on other thematic areas of Education for Sustainable Development.