Greening childhood education amid global climate emergency
‘Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.’ These are the ever-inspiring words of the Nobel Prize Laureate, Nelson Mandela of South Africa.
The former Vice-Rector of the United Nations University, Prof. Alexander A. Kwapong, brilliantly articulates that “education satisfies a basic human need for knowledge ... and helps sustain and accelerate overall development”.
Austrian-based Prof. Ilona M. Otto and her team co-identify education as one of the six social tipping elements for societal transformation to stabilise and sustain the Earth’s climate by 2050.
Thus, education remains all-imperative for achieving the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and sustainability futures.
In Fuveme, intense coastal climate impacts have immensely ruined quality childhood education and physically damaged the Fuveme Star of the Sea R.C. Basic School (FSSRC Basic School) to exacerbate educational inequality (Fig. 1 & Fig. 3).
Amidst SDG midpoint reflections, the SDG summit, COP28UAE and a quest for greener schools, this write-up illuminates a hidden case of the FSSRC Basic School from Ghana’s biggest delta (spatially non-equidistant from Ada, Anloga/Keta and Sogakope) to spark new policy conversations for urgent greening of schools entangled in high-risk climate emergency.
FSSRC Basic School frequently experiences sea heat, intertidal waves and storm floods blamed on greenhouse gas emissions by the Club of Rome, UNFCCC and IPCC.
Nearly 50 per cent of the school’s land is eroded by sea (Fig. 2). Although repeated tidal surges are harshly impacting the entire Fuveme community, the most affected victims are students of the FSSRC Basic School.
These digitally marginalised students are learning in unsafe classrooms and living in fear of unpredictable tidal aggressions. Nobody has evidence of when deadly sea rises or ‘climate wars’ will stop to give Fuveme children a peaceful mind to enjoy learning like the excellent atmosphere at Rev. John Teye Memorial Institute, KNUST Basic School or Achimota Basic School. Insecure
schooling conditions are diminishing Fuveme girls’ hope of emulating the youngest Nobel Prize Laureate, Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan.
The conviction is that as long as the Atlantic Ocean overheats, the struggle of over 160 boys, girls and their teachers will continue.
Children cannot decide to relocate to highland communities without the consent of their parents. Helpless!
Greening basic school
The childhood schooling system of Ghana that trains and gifts Kofi Annan and Dr Kwame Nkrumah to the world has an enviable reputation.
But Mother Teresa’s soft style of seeding affection and justice for the powerless in society is desperately needed to liberate Fuveme children from the high-above climate crisis.
The present educational leadership chaired by Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum has the option to harness relevant green-blue lessons from (non-)Commonwealth Small Island Developing States to co-create Fuveme’s learning and teaching environments consistent with UNESCO’s Green School standards.
Greening to rescue, improve and sustain the FSSRC Basic School requires investing in applied climate education, responsible digital learning modes, carbon-neutral facilities, and green system innovations.
If greener solutions incorporate the science of sustainability, it can empower FSSRC Basic School to function on the right side of education.
Resilience, partnership, research
What is immediately required is a true spirit of goodwill and ‘political will’ to provide psychosocial services to enable children to rebuild emotional resilience against sea-triggered violence.
This action supports SDG#3, SDG#4 and SDG#13, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Also, all stakeholders should cross-analyse local realities to formulate inclusive governance, cooperation and partnership (SDG#17) to eliminate educational inequalities (SDG#10) from the delta.
It sounds radical but a careful application of a human-centred approach to either upgrade or relocate the school (Fig. 4) from the existing dangerous zone is favoured by a preliminary report from a case study by the International Institute for Environment and Development, UK.
Scientifically conducting further research to examine place-based benefits of greening the school is advocated.
To achieve SDGs, FSSRC Basic School must rapidly transform to become climate-friendly, greener and sustainable.
The writer is a Research Fellow at Earth System Governance Project, Utrecht University, The Netherlands/Member, Working Group 1, ESD, UNESCO Greening Education Partnership.