The role of dialogue education in ensuring environmental sustainability in Petauke district,Zambia

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Banda, Stephen
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The background to this study had its genesis from the fact that little was known about how illiterate and semi-literate adults learnt about environmental sustainability in rural Zambia. In recent years, there has been a great need for education for all (EFA), not only youths or those that attend formal education. Further, in 2000, the United Nations set eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which is an agenda for improving the human condition by 2015. To achieve MDGs, a country will need political, socioeconomic and environmental sustainability.The seventh MDG deals with the environmental sustainability. Among those, target nine aims to reverse loss of environmental natural resources. It was in line with this goal and the great need for education for all that this study was designed to investigate the role of dialogue education in ensuring environmental sustainability among the illiterates in rural Petauke district, Zambia. The study addressed itself to three major questions. These were: (a) How do illiterate and semi-literate adults in "Kakwewa-Lusowe watershed" community and "Showground" compound community in Petauke district learn about environmental sustainability? (b) What are the levels of awareness of environmental sustainability among illiterate and semi-literate adults in "Kakwewa-Lusowe watershed" community and "Showground" compound community in Petauke district; and (c) Is there room for additional environmental sustainability approaches to be proposed in "Kakwewa-Lusowe watershed" community and "Showground" compound community in Petauke district? The study design was a case study. It was supported by triangulation of more qualitative than quantitative data. It, therefore, involved both qualitative and quantitative methods to collect data. The sample comprised 58 respondents. Qualitative method used semi-structured interviews, FGDs and physical field observations. Quantitative methodology relied on the use of questionnaires administered to local leaders and randomly selected residents of the "Showground" compound and "Kakwewa-Lusowe watershed" communities in Petauke. Quantitative data collected was analyzed using simple frequency distribution tables and percentages while qualitative data from interviews and physical field observations was analyzed qualitatively by coding and grouping similar themes using constant comparative techniques. Tables produced using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) were used in the presentation of data after analysis. The main findings of the study were that it is evident that illiterates and semi-literate adults in the study areas learnt about environmental sustainability mainly through informal and non-formal education. This included interactive dialoguing, sharing traditional environmental knowledge, use of the mass media and demonstrations organized by government extension workers and non-governmental organizations like PFC. The study, however, revealed that although illiterate adults learnt about environmental sustainability the levels of awareness were somewhat low in Petauke to effectively contribute to achieving the MDGs on ensuring environmental sustainability by 2015. The study further discovered that although people had low levels of environmental sustainability, they had hope that there was room for additional approaches to curb environmental degradation in Petauke district. The approaches mentioned included upholding traditional environmental knowledge which could be more effectively shared through active participation of community members through dialogue followed by action.Community activities mentioned included intensive tree-planting, preventing cutting down trees indiscriminatingly, adoption of conservation and an organic farming system, and adoption of use of alternative cleaner renewable energy sources. The study was mainly guided by hierarchy of needs theory, critical theory and transformational learning theory. The main conclusion of the study was that dialogue education can effectively help Petauke community dominated by illiterate people to improve environmental sustainability and bring development if utilized by adult educators and other community development agents. Dialogue education will add value to the process of education for all. In light of the findings, the study therefore recommends that adult educators, educationists in general, and policy-makers consider adopting the use of dialogue education to help achieve education for all in our country as this would incorporate even the illiterate adults in remote rural areas. The study further suggests future research to document valuable traditional environmental knowledge that still exists in our rural communities where the majority of the Zambian population lives.
Environmental Education , Environmental Protection , Environmental Sustainability