Quality education is viewed as a dynamic concept, which evolves with time, while it is also subject to social, economic and environmental conditions. In this regard, the goal of achieving universal primary education (UPE) has been on the international agenda since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirmed in 1948, that, elementary education was to be made freely and compulsorily available for all children in all nations. That was then and if it was today, maybe the communique could have included climate change education, because it is the most topical and life-oriented issues of our time.

By Peter Makwanya

Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) viewed quality as doing it right when no one is watching. Observing at what is unfolding in the environmental landscapes around the world today, it is critical and fundamental that children around the world, as one of the most important environmental stakeholder and beneficiary, need quality climate change education, first and foremost. Children require guidance on matters concerning climate change education and literacy, so that they are sufficiently empowered to adapt to prevailing climate impacts, come up with climate action plans, solutions and solve environmental problems, affecting their everyday lives.

Children need assistance to come up with the correct world-views and demonstrate how to engage those perspectives in articulating and communicating climate concerns. There shall be a time when children would be gradually weaned off from climate information dependence to information adequacy so that they are sufficiently nurtured into true green ambassadors.

Children’s climate change situations need not to be dramatised or over exaggerated by teachers, advocates or mentors.

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These said educators, normally — for reasons best known to themselves, compose scripts for children to read or dramatise at climate change conferences, with borrowed fluency and sharpness, just to suit the occasions. This is not the quality climate education that we are clamouring for. We need quality, creativity and innovations in children’s poetry, drama, songs, stories, online digital stories, videos, documentaries and adaptation communicating activities from their points of view and initiatives, not from the mentors’ deceptive world-views.

Today, a script can be composed by educators or advocates just to fool the world, forgetting that these children need to be prepared for life-long and living skills, which will make them survive in dire climate situations and being able to manage them. Of course, not all children are mentored that way, but the majority have been cultured and poisoned this way.

The seriousness and urgency of climate change doesn’t require any glossing, sugar-coating or grandstanding because it is real and happening. Quality climate change education should prepare children to future climate challenges and impacts, which they would solve emanating from their intrinsic motivations and desires to demonstrate change to a sustainable future. Children should be guided to tell their own stories, depicting what would be impacting on their environment, as this happen or happened, using appropriate and a variety of life-saving communication strategies available and being locally driven.

Effective quality climate change education is not spoon feeding children, they need to develop critical inquiry, innovations and discovery procedures, since the environment is the laboratory of nature. Although climate change is interdisciplinary in nature, it remains highly scientific, uncertain and interpretive, first and foremost.

Children are very important stakeholders in the environmental discourse of climate change, adaptation and mitigation, their participation in communicating climate initiatives and raising awareness, through relevant participatory behaviours and corrective of the human hand, should reflect the quality of education being inculcated. In order to offer quality climate change education to the children, teachers, advocates and mentors, should demonstrate adequate understanding and comprehensive knowledge of the climate change discourse, as per curricula requirements, in order to fill in the existing information and procedural gaps, manifesting themselves in the environmental landscapes.

Although environmental advocacy is an instrumental brand of climate change awareness, the component of quality education provides the most needed quality framework and dimension. Quality climate education is sufficiently empowering, life-orientated and fits well into life-long learning and new-knowledge economy, where ICTs and new-media technologies are competing and interactive milestones in transforming lives by providing goods and services.

What climate change advocates or activists are delivering to children is climate change environmentalism, which is good, but not qualitative enough to sufficiently empower and transform, not only to the environment but in changing lives as well. Environmentalism is assertive in that it influences policy dynamics, while quality climate change education facilitates life-skills and survival strategies, climate action strategies and resilience, adaptation and communication skills representing the children’s world views, heritage and local community landscapes and the physical environment, including how impacts of climate change are felt, managed and addressed.

Yes, it is true that children are risk communicators of climate change, but the aspect of environmentalism should not be seen to be compromising quality climate change education. The best possible way forward is to emphasise on which comes first or how best they can be integrated in the later stages of children’s development.

Environmentalism appears to be mostly articulated from the adult points of view, thereby suppressing the children’s voices, knowledge and initiatives. Children need to be involved in official climate change decision making processes rather than presenting children as an aside to major climate change events. As such, it would be difficult to understand if indeed the children would be abused or not, just brought in to provide entertainment or recite prepared scripts.

This would automatically leave them out of the noble discourse. Any inclusive, interactive and participatory approaches should be in line with the current sustainable development goals (SDGs), number 4 (Quality Education) and 13 (Climate Action). From the influence of the above stated SDGs and the other closely related ones, quality education would contribute to skills and capacity building, resulting from innovative and creative thinking skills for problems solving techniques.

Although at the end of the education process, it would be up to the individual child to engage in either politics of climate change, climate change activism or quality climate change community of practice, but the critical and fundamental base should be accurate, impartial and inclusive. From these scenarios, researchers can be born and nurtured to be patent researchers, stewards and climate heroes endowed with heritage based skills for the value addition, and the production of goods and services. Above all and everything else, no child should be left behind, directly or indirectly. If we fool the world by indoctrinating the children, then the climate will prove us wrong.