Dean of Education at Rhodes University, Professor Eureta Rosenberg, who started ESD courses in SADC in 1995, congratulates the 2021 Certificate awardees and all institutions involved in the SST Virtual Graduation Ceremony!

By Heila Lotz-Sisitka

Late October 2021 was an exciting moment for the Sustainability Starts with Teachers Course!  The first Course Completion Certificates were awarded in a course participants graduation ceremony hosted as part of the final 2021 webinar series.

The certificate ceremony was opened by the Dean of Education at Rhodes University, Professor Eureta Rosenberg, who congratulated the institutions and individuals who have been participating in the SST course. She shared the image of a baobab tree, telling all in attendance that this was the ‘tree of life’ in southern Africa, and it reminded her of why we were all involved in the Sustainability Starts with Teachers programme.

Speaking from the UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa, Dr Patience Awopegba indicated that the ceremony was an important day for the programme as it recognized the hard work that had been done by institutions and individuals on the SST programme over the past two years.  Ms Alison Kennedy from the UNESCO Paris office also congratulated the institutions and participants for their contributions to ESD, noting the importance of the work for building up knowledge of ESD in southern Africa which was an important contribution to the ESD 2030 agenda globally. 

Dr Charles Chikunda, programme officer leading the programme from the UNESCO Regional Office from Southern Africa announced the outcomes of the programme so far.  He noted that the Sustainability Starts with Teachers Programme had worked successfully with 66 teacher education and TVET institutions to catalyse and establish ESD Change Projects.  In the 2019 and 2020 period, this process had involved 365 Teacher Educators and TVET educators in 66 institutional communities of practice.  For this work, all participants were included in the 66 institutional Certificates of Recognition that were awarded to the institution.

The Certificates of Recognition were announced online by Distinguished Professor Lotz-Sisitka who also congratulated all of the institutional partners, community of practice leaders and institutional heads. The following institutions were awarded Certificates of Recognition for their role in advancing ESD Leadership in Teacher Education in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho and Zambia.

Regional Reference Group members and participants alike shared highlights from the countries, sharing insights into what they had learned, how they had formed communities of practice, how they had contributed to ESD change projects, and how the change projects were helping to inform national policy. Most importantly though, they shared how their change projects were transforming the education environment, and their teaching and learning approaches.

Speaking from Botswana, Dr Ntha Silo said “Building an institution-based model at a local level is an opportunity for future ESD work in Botswana”.   Professor Shumba from Zambia reflected that “the course has opened eyes in terms of online learning and has influenced pedagogical perspectives”.  Dr Tshiniganyamwe from Nambia said the course had helped to build leadership for ESD in Namibia where “Namibia was leading with a national ESD Policy”.

A key feature of the Sustainability Starts with Teachers programme is ESD leadership capacity building and for this the Community of Practice Leaders who had successfully completed all five modules of the course, and who had successfully led their communities of practice to complete Change Projects that were having an impact at institutional and community level, were awarded Rhodes University / UNESCO Certificates of Competence in ESD Leadership and Practice.

These Certificates were awarded to 31 of the 2019 ESD Teacher Education community of practice leaders by the Dean of the Faculty of Education, Professor Eureta Rosenberg.   Three ‘special mention’ certificates for regional leadership were awarded to the reference group members who had supported all institutions and participants:  Dr Nthalevi Silo, Dr Sirkka Thininganyamwe and Ms Iris Chimbodza, all of whom were alumni in the programme and who have been contributing to ESD in the SADC region for many years.

The following participants were all awarded Certificates of Competence in ESD Leadership and Practice in Teacher Education:

As some of the participants in the 2020 course were still completing the online course, and due to some delays in completing Change Projects due to the difficult conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic that affected everyone’s practice in 2020, it was decided to give participants in the 2020 period additional time to complete the online course.  Certificates of Competence for the 2020 cohort would therefore be offered in April 2022.

Overall the work of the change projects is feeding into the ESD 2030 deliberations at country level and many of the SST course participants were active in their country networks.  Namibia had completed an ESD Policy for the country, which was also featured in the most recent UNESCO International newsletter.  It was also reported that some of the course participants were going on to advance their studies in ESD.  Additionally, their work was feeding into other policy dialogues and processes in country and regionally.

The Certificate Ceremony was closed by Dr Patience Awopegba who once again congratulated all, and encouraged the 2020 and 2021 participants to continue completing the online course and their Change Projects.  Participants in the 2021 course, who were attending the ceremony expressed that seeing others succeed was a big motivation for them to continue the work they were doing!

And reminding us that the SST is also an ongoing process of ESD leadership building over time, Dr Chikunda “A course may be completed, but the change project is continuous beyond the course”!