ARTICLE:: Building a paradigm for sustainability in educationBy Akinleye Sowunmi
Published on 2 August 2014
The future of a nation lies in its youth, and the character of the youths is shaped by education. Education in simple terms can be defined as a conceptual change premeditated actions by configured thoughts. Stephen Covey, in the book, 7 habits of highly effective people said: sow a thought, reap an action sow an action, reap a habit sow a habit, reap a character sow a character, reap a destiny.
A sustainable destiny for Nigeria starts with a thought, and education is one of the most potent ways to sow a thought. A more sustainable future is therefore dependent on the level of education of the youths. Unfortunately, in 2004, the Nigerian National Planning Commission described Nigerias education system as dysfunctional. As the rest of the world strives to attain higher levels of sustainability, where does this leave Nigeria?
For the purpose of this article, ‘sustainability’ is defined as minimizing waste and optimizing use. Education was first identified internationally as an essential tool for achieving sustainability by Agenda 21 of the United Nations. In order to have sustainable development, sustainability must start as a mindset, and thereafter, translate into a lifestyle. PM news reported that Lagos State alone loses about ₦31 billion to energy wastage. The 100-acre Olusosun landfill in Lagos is said to be the largest landfill in Africa and one of the largest in the world. Today, global food waste amounts to $750 billion per annum and contributes 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. These information are mostly unknown to the public and by simply educating them on the impact their actions have on the environment, one could indirectly be solving these problems. Typical examples of some facts oblivious to the majority are: SUV’s usually have lower fuel economy than saloon cars and should be driven only in cases where functionality overweighs fuel cost, rather than for show off. LED bulbs consume about 80% less energy than the incandescent bulb and should be used instead. 25 is the temperature of optimum performance of an air conditioner, and running it at 20 would consume 40% more energy. Wastage and ostentation are habits that are learned through interaction and experience, and can be unlearned via channels for proper education. To achieve this, school curricula can be modified to accommodate practical classes and community development projects anchored on sustainability from primary school, and leading all the way up to a conceptual change.
An even more interesting model that can be adapted is ‘concept formation’. In the seventeenth century, British philosopher, John Locke, wrote an essay that produced the modern day idea of ‘tabula rasa’, which means ‘blank sheet’. Locke explained that the mind is a blank slate until experiences provide material out of which most of our complex knowledge is formed. Building a sustainable future begins with building sustainable homes. A child that grows up knowing that lights should be switched off when not in use will likely live life in that frame of mind. Research conducted by Attila Toth (2014) showed that social interaction influences moral judgment and people tend to follow the community’s collective judgment if it is prominent enough. It is therefore imperative that parents work to build the proper paradigm of sustainability at home, before exposure to the society delivers the contrary.
63 percent of Nigeria’s population is under the age of 25. With the strategic use of concept formation and conceptual change, Nigeria can harness the strength of its younger generation for a more sustainable future.