Uganda has one of the fastest growing Education sectors in Africa, with enrolment rates shooting up to more than 100% (EMIS 2002 – 2016) for both male and female in the last two decades at the primary, secondary, tertiary and higher education levels. Policy interventions like the introduction of Universal Primary Education (UPE), Universal Secondary Education (USE), support for the Business, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (BTVET), liberalisation of higher education and the increased involvement of the private sector in the provision of Education have played a central role in the rapid expansion of Education sector.

Investment in education in Uganda is viewed as a key avenue to future development and transformation. The degree to which this aspiration will be attained largely depends on the quality and character of education provided. This includes among other things the teaching and learning methods used and the philosophy informing them; the capacity of the teachers to apply the right methods, availability of appropriate infrastructure and logistical support, as part of the enabling environment to underlie the achievement of the expected goals of teaching and learning.

The country has been at the forefront of implementing the Education for sustainable Development (ESD) Agenda since its inception and continues to do so despite the inherent systemic challenges which are continually being addressed. Government has established the necessary policy and legal framework to accommodate ESD within the national education system and structures as illustrated later.   

The above key observations notwithstanding, the country continues to face a number of sustainable development challenges that call for intensification of efforts to consolidate ESD interventions in schools and other learning institutions. The country needs an environmentally, socially and economically literate society to nurture ESD. Key challenges include: unsustainable exploitation of the country’s natural resource base; a rapidly growing and increasingly young population; the growing culture of insensitivity, intolerance, impunity and violence. Others often cited are: high levels of unemployment and underemployment especially among the youths; unsustainable production and consumption patterns; the paradox of wealth creation, poverty and environment; and above all, the dominant development thinking which emphasizes economic growth at the expense of the quality of the environment and natural resources.

Tackling such challenges requires a new vision, innovations and forging new partnerships and change of mindset. In other words a shift in the development paradigm is required. This vision is consistent with the country’s Vision 2040 which envisions a transformation from a low income to an upper middle income nation. To realize this vision, the government committed to integrate sustainable development concerns into the formal, non-formal and informal education as one of the priority strategic interventions to create the right mindset and enabling environment to nurture sustainable development.   

As earlier mentioned, Uganda has embraced the call to reorient the education system towards sustainable development. The country has also taken positive efforts towards the achievement of the ESD aspirations. The following initiatives have been undertaken to respond: capacity building for teachers and other stakeholders to appreciate the need for ESD integration and to develop the pertinent skills, knowledge and attitudes to mainstream environment and sustainable development concerns in both academic and non-academic institutional programs.

Notable achievements so far noted have included: the development of the 2010 National ESD implementation strategy, capacity building for teachers, University lecturers, curriculum developers and other leaders in the sector. Other achievements include advocacy for ESD among political leaders, civil society organizations; line ministries, establishment of Regional Centres of Expertise hosted in four different regionally based Universities; documentation of ESD good practices and the organization of national ESD/Eco-Schools competitions and exhibitions for learners at different levels.

In addition, Uganda developed well-established policy and legal frameworks informing the country’s ESD drive well before the recent developments like the national ESD strategy and policy. National Development Plan II in particular puts emphasis on three ESD related areas: Reforming of the curriculum at all levels to produce skills that are relevant to the market; Expanding skills development to include formal and informal education through strengthening coordination, regulation and certification of both formal and non-formal training; and Establishing skills development and centres of excellence in prioritized areas.

The National Environment Act CAP 153 (1995) also provides for the promotion of environmental education at all levels, promotion of public awareness about environmental issues through formal, non-formal and informal education, promotion of the dissemination of information about the environment through education and outreach programmes and the integration of environmental education into the school curriculum. Uganda has thus been one of the first countries in Africa to commit itself in policy and law to implement Environment Education which was a precursor to Education for Sustainable Development.

Whereas key milestones have been achieved in this direction, there is a need to identify, motivate and document schools with outstanding performance in ESD and those with high potential to do so and facilitate them to demonstrate their utmost potential. The purpose is to generate lessons that will inspire others and provide evidence that committed implementation of ESD can lead to the desired long-term changes towards sustainable livelihood behaviors in society and its institutions.  This project will help expand the current work in sustainability through the implementation of plans in 10 schools, serving as future model sustainable schools.