UNAM plans get thumbs up

Windhoek – Plans for the University of Namibia to fully embrace Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) by mainstreaming it in the University curricular across all of its faculties and centers have received high level moral support, with the Minister of Education, Dr Abraham Iyambo, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms Kari Egge and UNAM’s Pro Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Research Professor Osmund Mwandemele giving it the thumbs up. Recently, in an effort to integrate environment and sustainable development issues into higher education, the University of Namibia in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) organized a two-day Workshop on Mainstreaming Environment and Sustainability at UNAM. UNESCO, the lead agency in the United Nations Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (UNDSED) was also represented at the seminar. The University of Namibia is pushing for the mainstreaming of ESD into all academic and other programmes at the university to develop and apply innovative strategies to strengthen institutional capacity for responding to environmental and development issues. As part of this initiative, plans are also afoot to develop an ESD Policy for UNAM and to introduce an ESD Masters programme. In a speech read on his behalf at the seminar, the Minister of Education Dr Abraham Iyambo said environmental sustainability was “crucial” for continuous human existence on earth and so plans by UNAM to mainstream ESD in its programmes were laudable. Iyambo said with the world facing serious environmental challenges that include global warming, droughts, floods, land and water degradation, loss of biodiversity, desertification, it was imperative that academic institutions think about mitigating the effects to the environment. “The university should appropriately incorporate the concepts of sustainability into all its academic disciplines.” He advised that sustainability be incorporated into research undertaken by students; that UNAM worked towards reducing its “ecological footprint”; and forge partnerships locally and internationally so that it taps into ESD best practices from others who have implemented it. Prof Osmund Mwandemele, who expressed disquiet over the low attendance to the seminar by UNAM senior academic staff members, concurred with Iyambo. “One of the major thrusts of ESD as described in Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 is the development of public understanding and awareness. In this regard, we are convinced that it is not only UNAM’s duty to sensitise and increase public awareness and participation in environmental protection, but to fully embrace ESD by mainstreaming this in the university curricula across all of its faculties and centers. This means that UNAM must rethink and reorient its education and research approaches as well as our production and consumption patterns,” Mwandemele said.

July 2010
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