Namibia is the driest country south of Sub-Saharan Africa with perennial rivers only at its borders, and most of the country experiences unpredictable annual rainfall. Despite this, the majority of its population depends on the land to sustain their livelihoods. Since independence from the apartheid government of South Africa in 1990, the Namibian government has given higher priority to the environment, including declarations in both the Constitution and Namibia’s Vision 2030 to about the importance of environmental education for Namibia’s development. The Namibia Environmental Education Network (NEEN) and government-supported Environmental Education Centres are among many initiatives to promote environmental education and awareness in Namibia.
Policy & Practice
At independence in 1990, Namibia inherited well-functioning physical infrastructure, a market economy, rich mineral resources, and a relatively strong public administration. However, the social and economic imbalances of the former apartheid system left Namibia with a highly dualistic society which resulted in limited job creation and high poverty and inequality. These challenges remain at the top of the government’s development agenda. Furthermore, prior to independence the skills and knowledge for sustainable living and resource use were a low priority. This led to environmental mismanagement, particularly through deforestation and encroachment on wastelands and bushlands.
Since independence, the Namibian government has given higher priority to the environment. Statements within Namibia’s Constitution and Vision 2030, Namibia’s long term plan, stresses that the promotion of environmental education among children is important for the country’s development. Namibia was one of the first countries in southern Africa to incorporate the environment into its constitution, which declares in Article 95 that:
The state shall actively promote and maintain the welfare of the people by adopting, inter alia, policies aimed at ... maintenance of ecosystems, essential ecological processes and biological diversity of Namibia; utilization of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future. In particular the government shall provide measures against the dumping or recycling of foreign nuclear and toxic waste on Namibia territory.
Article 95 also declared that all people of Namibia be provided with access to environmental education through both formal and non-formal education, overseen by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
EE in K-12 Education
The Namibian Ministry of Basic Education and Culture plays a significant role in the implementation of environmental education. The Ministry prioritizes the incorporation of environmental education and public awareness in the national school curriculum, and promotes the development of understanding, responsibility, and practical involvement in environmental sustainability for improved quality of life. Furthermore, Namibia’s Vision 2030 aims at producing an “environmentally sustainable society.”
The establishment of the Namibia Environmental Education Network (NEEN) was a milestone in the history of environmental education in Namibia. The national network facilitates information sharing in environmental education, and aims to empower Namibians to take action for environmental sustainability. NEEN’s policy (1999) maintains that:
Namibia will actively encourage, support and implement environmental education as a means of achieving and fulfilling Article 95 of the constitution. Environmental education should aim to empower Namibians, from all sectors, and to critically evaluate environmental information and options, to make informed decisions, and to take actions that will contribute to the goal of environmental and economic sustainability (p.1).
EE in the National Government
Policies that support environmental education in Namibia include:
- Environmental Management Act 7 of 2007 (and guide to the aforementioned act)
- Environmental Investment Fund Act 13 of 2001
In consultation with NEEN and government and non-governmental organizations, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism finalized the Environmental Education / Education for Sustainable Development Policy (ESD) for Namibia, which is yet to be launched. The policy presents national guiding principles and frameworks for mainstreaming environmental issues, and integrating global environmental conventions and obligations into national policy and planning frameworks.
The Ministry of Basic Education, Arts and Culture, in Namibia, also has the mandate of supporting the integration of Environmental Education in formal education.
There are also a number of Environmental Education Centres across the country, including in Namutoni, Okatjikona, and Otjikoto. The Environmental Education Centres are a venture of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, and promote environmental education as a continuous process that occurs in and out of school and considers the environment in its totality, emphasizing the compatibility of conservation and sustainable development. The objectives of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism's Environmental Education Centres include:
- To increase knowledge and awareness of the diversity within the fragile nature of the Namibian environment, and to encourage the sustainable use of Namibia's natural resources for the present and future generations
- To positively influence peoples' attitudes, knowledge and behavior towards the environment
- To deepen peoples' understanding and heightening awareness of our natural world
- To fostering creativity as well as ingenuity in caring for the environment
- To build capacity among Namibian youth and encourage them to take the lead in sustainable environmental, social and economic development
- Share and develop skills for identifying, critically evaluating and solving environmental problems
- To stimulate action education
- Strive to achieve the objectives of Article 95 of the Namibian Constitution
- To increase knowledge and awareness of the mission of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism
Furthermore, the Resource Educational Centre, under the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, serves the general public, staff members, learners, and researchers by providing technical and innovative information on environmental and socio-economic issues. The mission of the resource center is to foster an environment of discovery and intellectual exchange by developing critical thinkers through timely access to materials. Moreover, the center functions as a national environmental and tourism information hub.
National EE Campaigns and Funding
Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust (NaDEET) is a non-governmental organization (NGOs) in Namibia that supports environmental education efforts in the country. NaDEET addresses environmental issues through hands-on and experiential learning activities, and supports practical and learner-centered approaches to the Namibian school curricula. In October 2018, NaDEET was awarded the UNESCO-Japan Prize on ESD 2018 for outstanding work in the field of ESD.
Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN) also supports environmental education in Namibia, whose mission is to enhance decision making for sustainable development. DRFN’s environmental education programming was spearheaded through the Enviroteach project (established in 1992 and completed in 1999), which was funded by the Danish government to spearhead and strengthen a cross-curricular approach to environmental education in Namibia.