Using schools as an entry point into creating more sustainable communities, we build on the four pillars of inclusiveness, genuine participation, integration, and local ownership.
In eastern and southern Africa a number of local organisations are working to implement an ecovillage strategy using schools as an entry point into communities. This strategy involves bringing the community into their local schools.
Working together, the parents, teachers, pupils, and community leaders undertake a process to plan, implement and monitor a new reality for their school. This process is called Integrated Land Use Design (ILUD) or whole school participatory integrated land design. ILUD is a step-by-step process of redesigning the school environment with the involvement of all local stakeholders. The process is built on the four pillars of inclusiveness, genuine participation, integration and local ownership.
Inclusiveness refers to the open invitation that is extended to all stakeholders in and around the school as well as considering the school as a complete and whole unit of the environment that has to be designed in totality. ILUD is not only about establishing a school garden or setting up an environmental club under the guidance of a selected teacher. It is about engaging everyone, including administrators, community leaders, and local organisations to look at their school in a holistic way.
Representatives of the stakeholders at Lushomo School, Monze District in southern Zambia participating in the ILUD process to redesign their school environment in its totality. (Photograph by Mugove Walter Nyika)
Genuine participation is critical right from the planning stage through to implementation and monitoring. We work in a cultural context where children are brought up to remain silent in the presence of adults. We are breaking down this barrier by having children sitting together with the elders to make important decisions about the future of the school. In the photograph below the pupils, teachers, parents and community leaders sit together to plan for the improvement of their school.
Integration is the third pillar of ILUD and refers to connecting the four pillars of building sustainable communities: namely the ecological, social, cultural, and economic dimensions. At another level, integration refers to land use practices that connect the various elements on the land to build healthy ecosystems.
Pupils at the Shipungu School near Kapiri Mposhi, Central Province of Zambia, keep an eye on the growing paw paws with a trellis of passion fruit providing shade to the classroom while producing fruit for consumption and for sale. The fruits also have an immense educational value for a number of subjects across the curriculum. (Photograph by Mugove Walter Nyika)
The fourth pillar of our ILUD tool for building sustainable school communities is local ownership. To achieve this, the ReSCOPE Programme always works through local organisations. This helps to build the capacity of local organisations to use ILUD tools. The inclusive and participatory nature of the process empowers the local community to take ownership of the projects. In this way ReSCOPE is able to reach out to many more communities. Its broad local ownership ensures that the work will continue even if one of the champions were to leave a given community.
Big Picture Impact
The ILUD approach has been used with exciting results in over 200 school communities in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia. Each of these countries is building a local network of organisations that facilitate this process. For example there are 17 such organisations in Malawi and Uganda, and 14 and 13 in Kenya and Zambia respectively.
The issues that are addressed in this work include:
- Hunger and hidden hunger
- The vicious cycle of poverty
- Environmental degradation
- Disconnects between schools and their communities, schools as oases in their communities
- Disconnects between people and their culture, environments and their history i.e. identity and mind set issues
- Education systems that are too academic, theoretical, examination-oriented, and centred on books and teachers inside the classroom
- Low status of agriculture among the youth
- Exclusion of young people in decision making
ILUD is implemented initially over a period of one month of training-intensive work combined with inclusive and participatory planning, which is then followed by two years of implementation, monitoring, and back-up support.
About the Author
Mugove Walter Nyika works with the Regional Schools and Colleges Permaculture (ReSCOPE) Programme in eastern and southern Africa (see http://seedingschools.org) as the regional facilitator. The ReSCOPE Programme is active in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia and is seeking to establish new chapters in Tanzania and Rwanda.
He is also a member of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) Africa Council (http://gen-africa.org). Mugove has been working with school communities using this approach since 1996, having been a high school geography teacher for 14 years before then.