Why Nigerian Children Need to be Educated about Climate Change

By Onyekachi Chukwu*

To avoid the worst effects of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommends the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. However, most countries are not on course to fulfil these targets which in some cases could be a result of ignorance. Therefore, it is critical to raise knowledge about climate change issues and how to mitigate its effects as soon as possible. More people will participate in climate action if they are well informed, and this will help in fulfilling emission reduction targets.

Children are an important demographic to educate not only because they would be able to transmit such knowledge in their households and build a more informed generation, but also because they are disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The Children’s Climate Risk Index is the first comprehensive assessment of climate risk from the perspective of children. It assigns a ranking to countries based on their children’s exposure to climate and environmental shocks, such as heatwaves, as well as their sensitivity to those shocks, based on their availability of vital services. Nigeria, along with Chad, is placed second among these countries, just ahead of the Central African Republic (ranked first). According to a UNICEF assessment in 2020, nearly half of the world’s 2.2 billion youngsters live in one of the 33 “very high-risk” countries; young people in Nigeria are among those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which jeopardizes their health, education, and safety. UNICEF concludes that Nigerian children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution and coastal flooding, but that investments in social services, notably child health, nutrition, and especially education, can help to protect their futures from the effects of climate change.

It is important to note that the consequences of climate change are often stronger in developing countries, even though people there are less culpable for the situation and have less capacity to prepare for and adapt to it. Future African generations face a grave threat from climate change, and this has immediate and long-term consequences for their physical and mental health. Climate change is the defining challenge of the next generation and any chance of addressing it requires that young persons develop the knowledge and skills required to care for the environment and climate.

SDG 4 calls for quality Education and aspires to ensure that all people have access to high-quality education and that lifelong learning opportunities are available to them. Climate change education (CCE), according to UNESCO (2021), aims to address and develop effective responses to climate change. It assists students in comprehending the causes and effects of climate change, coping with the effects of climate change and taking necessary steps toward adopting more sustainable lifestyles. It aids policymakers in comprehending the need for developing methods and plans to tackle climate change on both a national and global scale. It also assists communities in learning about the effects of climate change on their livelihoods (vulnerabilities), developing methods for mitigating negative outcomes (adaptation), and reducing their carbon emissions and climate footprint (mitigation).

The global community understands the necessity of climate change education and training. Therefore, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) coined the term “Action for Climate Empowerment” to describe activities carried out under Article 6 of the Convention (1992) and Article 12 of the Paris Agreement whose overarching purpose is to empower all members of society to engage in climate action through activities such as; education, training, public awareness, public involvement, public access to information, and international cooperation. When it comes to children and young people, climate change education is a critical component in building a climate-smart generation. Therefore, Climate change education should be integrated into all levels of children’s education, starting from early childhood to tertiary levels.

According to a document published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), there are some good country examples of climate change education that may inspire others in their future efforts to place climate change at the centre of educational content and practice.

In recent years, Indonesia has enacted a growing number of laws and regulations linked to climate change and has included the subject in its development goals. In 2013, Indonesia revised its National Curriculum Framework to include climate change as a core competence, mostly for elementary school pupils. This is listed as part of the knowledge that students should possess. Also, the Ministry of Education and Culture hosts climate change events, such as the annual Climate Change Education Forum & Expo, which focuses on climate change education issues and gives opportunities for schools and educators to network.

In East Asia, the Republic of Korea has implemented several important Climate Change Education (CCE) governance policies and projects. For example, in 2010, it passed the Framework Act on Low Carbon Green Growth, which clarifies the government’s role in Climate Change Education. A decade later, the country released its third Environmental Education Masterplan (2020), which places a heavy emphasis on climate change. Furthermore, since 2007, the National Curriculum Frameworks have included climate change education at all levels, including preschool.

The Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Programme in South Africa is primarily concerned with teacher professional development to improve the teaching of the Environmental Education and Sustainable Development curriculum. Furthermore, the initiative intends to provide Education for Sustainable Development materials for schools and communities, as well as increase community capacity to begin and implement Environmental Education and programs.

Aside from teacher education, numerous countries coordinate to ensure that school infrastructure reflects national ESD interests. Improvements to school buildings and the ‘greening’ of schools were prevalent, as shown in the Dominican Republic and Kenya’s School Garden initiatives. In the Dominican Republic, for instance, the School Gardens programme is carried out with the collaboration of the Ministry of Agriculture, which provides schools with the resources, materials and guidance needed to improve their gardens. The objective of the programme is to create in students respect and care for nature. In Morocco, the implementation of the Integrated Programme for the Promotion of Environmental Education and Sustainable Development has allowed the realization of pilot projects in ecological facilities at schools.

In Peru, the Ministry of the Environment collaborates closely with the Ministry of Education, through the National Youth Secretariat, to provide services relevant to the National Youth Policy through the training program Learning for Environmental Action. It has designed a training program in environmental education, in which it trains young people from Peruvian State-recognized youth environmental organizations.

Yet, in Nigeria, not all schools include climate change education into their curriculum or extracurricular activities, and where they do, what children are taught about climate change might not be relatable based on their environment. This includes how to prepare and respond to certain types of disasters most likely to occur in their geographical regions. Poor climate change education and the increased availability of misinformation online make it harder for children and young people to distinguish between fact and fiction around climate change.

Given the effects of climate change in Nigeria, and with the understanding that most Nigerian public schools lack resources and information about their environment and climate change, it is critical to incorporate this knowledge into both the formal and informal school setting through modifying curriculum and training teachers who would, in turn, educate schoolchildren as a means to make them aware of as well as comprehend, and participate in the global discourse, and to better prepare them to address climate change and environmental concerns that are unique to their regions.

In light of this, Clean Technology Hub(CTH) has organized training for climate action among students in Nigeria and currently works with existing school clubs in promoting the subject of green energy.

To catch them while they are still young, CTH has created an e-Learning Academy, which is a digital collection of video-based learning resources organized into modules and series that cover a wide range of renewable energy and sustainability subjects.

Also, the Adopt a School Program is an initiative of Clean Technology Hub that aims to close the knowledge gap in schools about climate change by increasing the students’ knowledge of climate adaptation by forming STEM-focused green clubs that will promote climate action, using Nigerian schools as a vehicle. This project targets students in primary and secondary schools throughout the country and equips children and young people with the knowledge and skills they need to protect themselves and contribute to a safe and sustainable future while ensuring that such initiatives reach marginalized children and youths.

Onyekachi Chukwu* is an Environment & Climate Action Associate at Clean Technology Hub

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Clean Technology Hub

Clean Technology Hub

Clean Technology Hub is a hybrid hub for research, policy development, community engagement, & incubation of clean energy & climate resilience ideas in Nigeria.