Tags: Citizenship and PSHE | Classroom Teacher | Learning Partnerships | PSHE & Citizenship Coordinator | Teaching and Learning

Liz Thomas describes a north-south education project for sustainable development.

Teachers and students from three secondary schools in south Wales took part in celebrations to mark World Teachers’ Day at the Temple of Peace in Cardiff in October 2006. This event not only marked the achievements of the schools, Cyfarthfa High in Merthyr Tydfil, Cardinal Newman in Pontypridd and Sir Thomas Picton in Haverfordwest, in becoming the first Welsh schools to join UNESCO’s ASPnet (Associated Schools Partnership network) but also gave them the opportunity to showcase the work they had developed as part of a north-south partnership project in conjunction with Cyfanfyd (Development Education Association for Wales) and Sazani Associates.

The project, Education for Rural People: Linking Wales and Zanzibar, had been ongoing for two years. It has now reached the end of its introductory phase. It offers a practical example of how schools can integrate Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship (ESDGC) into their work while developing partnerships with other organisations in the UK, Europe and throughout the South.

Background to ERP

About 70% of the world’s poor live in rural areas. Despite the fact that education is a basic right in itself and an essential prerequisite for reducing poverty, improving living conditions and building a food-secure world presents particular challenges outside towns and cities. Children’s access to education in rural areas is still much lower than in urban areas, adult illiteracy is much higher and the quality of education is poorer.

During the 2002 World Summit on sustainable development in Johannesburg, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) launched the Education for Rural People (ERP) flagship partnership. The initiative, led by FAO, calls for collaborative action among governments, United Nations agencies and civil society in order to boost education in rural areas.

The project’s objectives are to:

  • build awareness of the importance of ERP as a crucial step towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and achieving universal primary education
  • increase access to basic education for rural people
  • improve the quality of basic education in rural areas
  • foster the national capacity to plan and implement basic education plans to address the learning needs of rural people.

In January 2003 a group of Italian NGOs, led by ACRA (Association of Rural Cooperation in Africa and Southern America) joined forces with FAO and UNESCO to build a partnership in support of ERP (www.fao.org/sd/erp). This project was aimed at improving both education for rural people and food security. It was also geared towards fighting poverty through participatory approaches to resources management.

ERP in Wales

This project, which ran between October 2004 and October 2006, was brought to Cyfanfyd with four aims. These were concerned with:

  • raising awareness of ERP and food security
  • forming a network of schools in Wales linked with a similar network in Zanzibar
  • developing and trialling resources looking at the issues connected with ERP
  • disseminating information throughout Wales and with European partners.

Raising awareness of the value of ERP in food security – the importance of ERP as vital in alleviating poverty and hunger and achieving the Millennium Development Goals has been emphasised through the project.

Forming a network of schools in Wales linked to a similar network in Zanzibar – overarching support has been achieved from the British Council in both Wales and Zanzibar and networks of schools have been established in both countries. 

Developing and trialling resources looking at the issues connected with ERP in Zanzibar – the ESDGC and the Welsh Assembly Government’s nine key concepts were used as the dominant themes in the resources. Project teams in Wales and Zanzibar have worked together to identify curriculum needs (civics in Zanzibar and PSE, geography and RE in Wales as well as the Welsh Baccalaureate) and to develop and mutually trial a resource pack. The pack will soon be available to download from the Cyfanfyd website (www.cyfanfyd.org.uk). It makes ERP and ESDGC accessible, relevant and real to students in the UK and in Zanzibar.

Disseminating information throughout Wales and with European Partners – three dissemination events have taken place in Wales to share information about ERP and the project. At the final event, which took place on World Teachers’ Day (www.ei-ie.org/worldteachersday/en), Welsh schools were presented with certificates by Les Stratton of ASPnet in formal recognition of their participation. The gathering highlighted ERP as a theme for other schools who might wish to join the network.

An ERP conference also took place in Zanzibar at the end of October to publicise the project in the South.

Overview and future

The project has given a solid foundation to the sometimes nebulous concepts involved in ESDGC and, for the students and teachers in Zanzibar, has provided a thought-provoking resource pack that is clearly focused on issues they face on a day-to-day basis.

The next stage of the project will see an expansion of the network to include feeder primary schools in Wales and Zanzibar which will work on ERP as a transition project. The focus will also widen to include:

  • other countries in the South
  • working with Dolen Cymru to build on the existing Wales-Lesotho link
  • adult learners and the wider community through the Workers’ Education Association, British Council and UNESCO.

For more on citizenship and international links, see our ‘Developing Citizenship’ section at www.cyfanfyd.org.uk

First published in Learning for Life, December 2006

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