What roles can schools play in upscaling Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) in the communities?

In Malawi, a local NGO – the Centre for Community Organisation and Development (CCODE), is supporting the five primary schools of Kawale, Kaliyeka, Kafulu, Chisamba and Nanjati to upscale the use of Nature Based Solutions (NBS) in addressing community challenges. The process is being implemented with support from SIDA and UN-Habitat under the project Building Resilience of Informal Settlements through Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) and Biodiversity Actions (UB) in Lilongwe City, Malawi. The project is targeting the three informal settlements of Kawale 1, Kawale 2 and Kaliyeka.

Nature Based Solutions Project

Schools are considered mediums of change. They groom society to be better and acquire new knowledge to enhance life. They also shape societal lifestyles and character. Recently, public primary schools of Kawale, Kaliyeka, Kafulu, Chisamba, and Nanjati had the chance to seat and talk about upscaling Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) in addressing school challenges in their respective communities. the schools have a combined population of 13,060 girls and boys. schools were represented by School Management Committees, School Groups, and Parent-Teacher Associations, and the school administrations were represented by headteachers and teachers. The discussion also targeted Primary Education Advisors (PEAs).

An interesting discussion transpired when the forum took a reflection on how the school standards have rapidly declined in maintaining a healthy environment around the school premises. A good number of challenges were highlighted as the main causes of this dysfunctionality. School administrators bemoaned the lack of support from parents, guardians the community at large in their efforts to build a crop of responsible individuals that can dutifully care for the environment.

“our biggest challenge is that as a country, we were given freedom without responsibility. This is the reason many parents are against the training of students in manual work. We are struggling to teach the students in school how to take care of the environment because we are getting backlashes from the parents on subjecting children to manual work.”   It was also established in this forum that some parents have gone to the lengths of storming the schools and demanding to do manual work on behalf of their children to stop the school from making the students do manual work.

Primary Education Advisor

Another challenge that was outstanding in the discussion was the issue of overpopulation in the schools.

Nowadays, due to free health care services under the Ministry of Health, we are able to give birth to healthy children. We are so grateful and to show our gratitude that we are procreating further. The problem is that the schools are not growing with us. The infrastructure remains the same and due to congestion, it is mostly in a damaged state. It is almost impossible to control the crowds of energetic children that we have in our schools. How can we keep green spaces in stampedes? How can we control water usage in gardening and ensure proper waste management with thousands of students?

A PEA bemoaned.

While it was agreed that there are indeed overwhelming challenges in regards to the schools implementing NBS to restore nature patterns in the school premises and communities, the schools also accepted to start somewhere by taking small steps towards their goals to make school premises green spaces. As of March 2022, the five primary schools within the locality of the three settlements; Kaliyeka, Kawale 1, and Kawale 2 had a total enrolment of 13,065 learners. From this background, the school bodies’ representatives were able to tell the importance of coordinated efforts in their efforts for them to achieve more results in restoring nature and incorporating use of NBS into the daily learning processes. The schools considered using the big population to their advantage by ensuring the participation of students, their parents, and the communities at large. “Imagine over 13,000 students putting their efforts together to make their schools green, can they fail in such multitude?”. The team also aspires to inspire other surrounding schools to take up the challenge and make their environments better as well.

As mediums of behavioral change, the schools strategized on their roles in upscaling the use of Nature-Based Solutions to address community challenges through revamping environmental school clubs and increasing engagements with parents, guardians, and the community at large. The school also decided on engaging authorities and another partner to improve the infrastructure.

The enthusiasm to make this happen was also raised by the commencement of the NBS schools’ competition among the five schools. The competition which is to run for seven weeks will reward the school that has transformed its premises within the seven weeks, earned more points in a Nature-Based Solutions quiz, and has made creative crafts from waste. The top three runners will walk away with awards in form of teaching and learning materials.

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