Seeds of hope: Growing a network of green schools in Burkina Faso
Environmental education is a passion for Ouedraogo Ousséni. A teacher at Municipal School C in Kaya in the north-central region of Burkina Faso, he has been developing a plant nursery project with his Year 6 pupils since 2000.
The project has a number of objectives: to educate pupils about the environment, to contribute to the reforestation of the country, to sell trees at a profit in order to pay for school equipment and to recycle plastic bags for replanting trees. Ten years later, every pupil in the school participates in the environmental project called “A school, a forest.” From the very youngest, who water the saplings and collect plastic bags, to the oldest, who are responsible for planting the trees in the nursery, everyone is involved. When Ouedraogo learned that his union, the Syndicat National des Enseignants Africains du Burkina(SNEA-B), planned to offer training on sustainable development education with the Quebec trade union federation CSQ, he quickly signed up – as did 40 other teachers who also focus on environmental education. The training session took place in Ouagadougou in December 2009. Jean Kafando, general secretary of SNEA-B, organised it with the goal of making further progress in environmental education by introducing a new area: education on sustainable development. “The experience of CSQ is enriching and we are convinced that the Brundtland green schools model, which was developed in Quebec, can be successfully introduced in Burkina Faso,” Kafando said. Jean Robitaille, a CSQ advisor on education for a sustainable future, and René Prince, a teacher from Victoriaville, facilitated the training. Throughout the session, they painted a picture of education as a tool for social transformation. “There are 60 million teachers worldwide. We have real power to change things, as it is through education that we are able to change behaviours and improve our environmental situation,” Robitaille declared. Both trainers are convinced that the Brundtland green schools model can be inspiring for a country like Burkina Faso. “The values that we promote are universal,” says Robitaille. “Ecology, solidarity, democracy and pacifism are all values that are essential to development, particularly in Africa. If the environment deteriorates, for example, it would be hard for Burkina Faso to develop. For that reason, we must act urgently and educate young people, as education is the first tool for development.” Using teaching methods designed to raise awareness, the green schools model promotes a three-pronged approach: observing the context, analysing this context, and then working towards changing it. To put into practice a context observation activity, participants were asked to go on a discovery walk. The group walked through the streets around the training centre in order to observe challenges to sustainable development. These were grouped into three categories: social, environmental and financial. Along their walk, teacher Ouedraogo Kadietou met a young girl and asked why she was not in school on that Tuesday morning. The girl replied that she no longer attended school since her aunt had come to collect her from her village and taken her to live in town. Since then she had worked as a domestic servant in the aunt’s household. Back in the group session, Mrs. Kadietou spoke about this encounter, which inspired a teaching activity on the right to education and, more specifically, education for girls. Maïga Zéli, a teacher in the Sahel region, suggested that teachers take a census of girls who are not in school in their region by asking boys whether or not their younger sisters also attended classes. Steps could then be taken to meet with the parents and encourage them to register their daughters in school This activity is one of many that will be detailed in a teaching activity guide for primary schools. For three days, participants worked on developing activities relevant to Burkinabe schools, basing these on a guide that had been developed in Niger the previous year. On their return to their respective regions, each of the participants will use the guide to train a further 10 teachers each. Together they will be responsible for creating a network of green schools, which could link up to the Niger network and eventually extend through the Sahel region into Mali. By Luc Allaire.