By Oluwafunmilayo Oyatogun.
Praia sits elegantly on Cape Verde’s island of Santiago, at the West African edge of the Atlantic ocean and is perhaps one of the continent’s best kept island secrets. UNESCO and the Sandwatch Foundation in Canada invited over 30 African environmentalists for a workshop on Climate Change, in the city of blue skies, bright beaches and beautiful people. From Nov. 19 – 23, Praia played host for the participants of the workshop titled: “Climate Change Education Inside and Outside the Classroom.” Cape Verde is a small island nation in the Atlantic Ocean and like many small island developing countries, faces tremendous threats due to climate change and the potential inundation that comes with sea level rise.
They all spoke different languages, some French, others English and the rest Portuguese. However, the workshop sessions were successfully conducted with visual aids and participant interaction which helped facilitate learning even across language barriers. This was the second phase of the workshop, targeted towards participants from West Africa (the first was held a month ago in South Africa for Southern and East African participants.) Over 10 countries were represented including Cameroon, Cape Verde, Comoros, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria, Sao Tome, Senegal and Togo.
The team from Nigeria included four participants, Mrs. Stella Adejoh, Ms. Oluwafunmilayo Oyatogun, Prof. Ojonigu Ati and Mr. Okoro Okorie. Like the participants from other countries, the Nigerian delegation represented a diversity of expertise including environmental education, climatology, gender specialization and youth advocacy for environment.
At the opening and closing ceremonies of the workshop, several Cape Verdean dignitaries were present to identify with the mission of the UNESCO / Sandwatch alliance, and to reiterate their commitment to ensuring that developing countries place emphasis on mitigation of and adaptation towards climate change. His Excellency the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation and the Chairman of the National Commission of Cape Verde to UNESCO, Mr. Antonio Correia e Silva, chaired the opening of the workshop. Mr. Antonio Querido, Representative of PNUD, the Minister for Education and Sports and His Excellency Mr. Antero Veiga, the Minister for Environment, Housing and and Management, were all present at the workshop. The workshop was facilitated by Lausanne Olvitt of South Africa, Khalissa Ikhlef of UNESCO, Paris, and Paul Diamond of the Sandwatch Foundation, Toronto.
Throughout the four-day workshop, participants were put through exercises and plan-development coursework in order to prepare them for their activities on climate change education when they return to their countries. The Sandwatch representative, Mr. Paul Diamond, introduced the Sandwatch Foundation and the ways in which they have developed a strategy to use beach trips as practical education for young people on climate change. The small-group break-out sessions also enabled sharing of ideas and fostering of relationships to strengthen the network of climate change educators across West Africa. The content of the workshops were rich and diverse, covering everything from the science of climate change to the dynamics of Climate Change as an opportunity to employ Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) strategies. One of the highlights of the program was a beach trip where participants took simple but important measurements on one of the local beaches and were able to use those to evaluate the impact of climate change in the area in the recent past and the near future. The beautiful beaches are important not just because of the overall role they play in the ecosystem, but because of how critical they are to island communities, such as Praia, for their recreation, livelihood and lifestyle.
The session finished with a presentation of certificates and a resolution of participants to use their new knowledge to improve climate change education within and outside the classroom.