Can climate change impact on education achievement?


Can climate change impact on education achievement?


Posted 04 July 2011, by Correspondent (The Guardian), IPPMedia,


Displaced flood victims: There is need to introduce environment education in school curriculum to provide students with the necessary skills to understand the causes of climate change.

Climate change is currently at the centre of our daily life, as its impacts and consequences are being experienced in all regions of the world. But as we know climate change is not a natural phenomenon; climate has natural variability over time, but when we talk about climate change it refers to the alterations in the atmosphere that are over and above natural climate variations, and that are result of human activity.

This means that the situation can be changed if human beings transform their ways of living to be more sustainable and friendly to the environment.

Statistics released by African Union in 2009 reveal that, due to inadequate rainfall during the last agriculture season, more than 15 million people in the African continent are faced with food scarcity. Kenyans have recently faced severe drought never experienced in the last decade which affect people’s lives and survival of livestock.

It has been estimated that more than four million people who live in the most dry areas in Kenya for some years to come they will continue depending on food aid, otherwise they will die of hunger. Indication of food scarcity has also been seen in Uganda and Tanzania, where there are areas which continue to face severe drought and food scarcity.

On the other hand, floods hit different countries last year. Floods in Kilosa, Dodoma and landslide in Same; floods in China, Brazil and other parts of the world have caused severe damage on lives and infrastructure.

In Kilosa, for example, about 23,073 people were affected by floods, where 813 houses were destroyed since rainfalls started end of 2009. A total of 1,523 became homeless. The evacuation camps were set at the Kimamba Primary school and Kilosa Town Primary school.

How climate change affect schooling

The impacts of climate change on boys’ and girls’ accesses to quality education have also not yet received much attention, nor have the possibilities of education to support initiatives for sustainability. We should note that impacts of climate change have more effects on women and girls life than men.

One of the effects of the climate change is drought, which result into increasing food insecurity and water scarcity. In many societies, women and girls are responsible for collecting water, meaning that climate change is bringing increased burden, as they spend a greater part of each day fetching water.

This in turn is actually serving to strengthen gender inequality, and poverty, as it means that women have even less time to participate in income generating activities, contribute to decision making processes, or to find out about things that they could do to cope better with the impacts of climate change. And of course, it leaves less time for girls to go to school or for women to support children learning at home.

But gendered expectations also mean that as drought and other natural disasters reduce opportunities for employment at home, men who are expected to provide for their family, have to migrate elsewhere to look for work, where they may face exploitation, dangerous working conditions and pressures associated with absence for households.

This increases the possibility of children not to be provided with necessities which can help them to obtain school needs such as uniforms, stationery as well as psychosocial support.

Changes in the ecosystems and loss of diversity lead to reduced agricultural output and increased food insecurity. This brings greater problems to food producers, as well as impact on human settlements as some areas become uninhabitable.

Food scarcity may also result into children to lack their proper meals. The outcome is some children will drop out or become truants as they cannot go to school with empty stomach. Moreover, for those who opt to go to school might not be able to fully participate in the learning process as they are hungry. Hunger affects both the body and mind, and therefore it affects the learning of children.

Furthermore, for the pastoralists and peasants societies, drought will force them to migrate into areas with green pastures and weather conditions which support pastoralism and agriculture. This means that the family will migrate with all their children, resulting into the children missing their education rights.

Last year, The Rift Valley Province in Kenya where most of the dwellers are the pastoralists, they experienced severe drought. The area did not receive rains resulting into lack of green pastures for their livestock. Households could not depend on income from selling their livestock as buyers demanded very low price.

People became increasingly reliant on food security and had to sell their animals at very low prices in order to send their children to school. Drought left people in poverty as most of the livestock died due to lack of pastures and water. These people did not have any other source of income.

Increased poverty at home due to the impacts of climate change means that girls and boys may be taken out of school to work in order to increase household income. This affects school attendance. When the family decides who should be taken out of school, it’s the girl who is mostly affected. Girls might work in flower farms, become housegirls or helping to do petty business.

Increased instances of flooding and other natural phenomena also results in their houses, school buildings and other infrastructure such as roads, bridges etc being damaged, impacting on children’s right to receive an education.

Damage to housing caused by natural disasters leaves many children homeless, or living in accommodation that is overcrowded and in adequate, while some of their belonging including school uniform, shoes, books and son on are missing. Worse enough some children might find themselves orphans as their parents might be killed by the disaster. In addition, school premises are usually used as temporary settlements for disaster victims.

For example in Kilosa, two primary schools, just to mention a few, were closed for weeks in order to provide settlements for the flood victims. This also impacts on their capacity to study at home, meaning that even if they continue to attend school, they fall behind.

The adverse impacts of the effects of climate change and environmental degradation on human health, such as waterborne diseases as a result of polluted water supplies, more extreme weather resulting in natural disasters, and changes in air quality and food quality, and also have a particular impact on women/girls in their role as principal care givers. Sick children cannot have good school attendance.

Many children in remote area have poor access to health facilities, and when they become sick with no medical attention their school attendance will also be affected.

Diseases caused by the climate and environmental change might have effect on household income. For example, the Maasai households depend mainly on cattle as their source of income and food. In the instance of diseases caused by environmental degradation, cows can die in large number within a short time.

This will suddenly reduce households into poverty, and therefore reducing family income. Poor household might find it difficult to provide for the family needs as well as the school needs of their children, resulting into either poor attendance or drop out.

Way forward

We should emphasise that impacts of climate change has more effects on women and girls’ lives than men. The situation can be changed if human beings transform their ways of living to be more sustainable and friendly to the environment. Local and international communities need to find ways of reducing the impact of climate change such as reducing the emissions of green effect gases provide environment education to the members of their societies and take necessary precautions to prevent these impacts.

Schools could be one of the strategic areas to introduce environment education. Education curriculum need to provide skills to students to understand causes of climate change, its effects on various social groups and how they can participate in improving their local environment. Let’s act locally while think globally.


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