The Sustainable Societies – Africa course consists of four Parts supported by Supplemental Materials. Parts 1, 3, and 4 each consist of a single module. Part 2 contains twenty-five issue modules grouped into eight issue blocks. The sequence of the Parts leads students through four stages of development: recognition, understanding, integration, and application. The Supplemental Materials include tools to help students organize and apply what they are learning in the course.
Part 1 Introduction to Sustainable Societies
The objective of Part 1 is to connect students with sustainability. Each has experienced sustainability problems personally or seen them in his or her community. These may have been problems of poverty or health, natural resource misuse or degradation, political corruption or cultural bias, or otherwise.
In Part 1, students learn to recognize the wide range of social, economic, and environmental sustainability problems in Africa and see how the problems impact them personally. Once this recognition has taken place, Part 1 explores the concept of and rationale for sustainable development. Part 1 includes activities that assess the students’ pre-course knowledge of social, economic, and environmental sustainability issues, help students identify the most critical sustainability issues, and explore the merits of sustainable development from a variety of African perspectives.
At the end of Part 1, the purpose and expectations for the students’ Part 4 community application project are reviewed so that in Part 2, students are able to begin their personal research and assembly of relevant material.
In a one semester course, Part 1 has a duration of less than two weeks.
Part 2 – Issues in Sustainable Development
The objective of Part 2 is for students to develop practical sustainability issue understanding as they examine the issues at local, regional and, to a limited extent, global scales.
Building on the personal recognition that takes place in Part 1, in Part 2, students examine each of the twenty-five most critical social, economic, and environmental sustainability issues facing Africa—many of which they had personally identified as problems in Part 1.
In addition to learning more about the problems through assigned readings, the students explore and learn to evaluate sustainability strategies being used in Africa to address the problems. Through critical-thinking exercises such as considering whether such strategies could be applicable to problems in their communities, students begin the process of applying what they are learning.
Also during Part 2, students select which community issue or issues they would like to design a strategy for as their Part 4 community application project and begin their personal research, assembling relevant issue and strategy information for their Part 4 projects.
For students who are already very knowledgeable about some of the Part 2 issues, readings on those issues can be omitted, allowing more time to be spent examining the sustainability strategies and the other issues.
During a one semester course, Part 2 has a duration of approximately eight weeks.
Part 3 – Case Study
In Part 3, students move from understanding individual issues and evaluating strategies targeted to addressing one or a few issues, to evaluating and critiquing a sophisticated strategy that is tackling many interrelated issues. The case involves multiple sustainability issues and demonstrates how an integrated strategy to address the issues was developed and put into action. It also examines social, economic, and environmental costs and benefits.
The objective of Part 3 is to develop students’ understanding of how issues interrelate and strategy integration—how to build strategies that tackle multiple issues at the same time. This strengthens the students’ ability to apply what they are learning and prepares them for the Part 4 community application project, where they will integrate all that they have learned from Parts 1, 2, and 3.
For students with advanced understanding of the Part 2 issues, the Part 3 case can be used before Part 2. In such a situation, the Part 2 Issue Modules can then be used to fill in gaps in issue understanding.
In a one semester course, Part 3 would be approximately one week in duration.
Part 4 – Application
In Part 4, students integrate their recognition that sustainability issues impact their communities from Part 1, their understanding of the issues and strategies to tackle them from Part 2, and their appreciation of what it takes to develop an integrated approach to the problems from Part 3, and design strategies for use in their communities.
The objective of Part 4 is student application—creating practical sustainability strategies that can make a positive difference in their local communities. Each student, or student group, develops and presents a practical sustainability strategy for their community.
Sustainability strategies designed by students during the course can benefit the economic sector, for example, by demonstrating how changes to more sustainable agricultural practices can improve crop yield or how existing government subsidies or external funding can be used for higher return. Other strategies can demonstrate how to increase school attendance and performance by showing ways to improve child nutrition locally. Environmentalists may see substantially more environmental appreciation and awareness on university campuses and students that will later carry these attitudes into their future workplaces. Businesses and governments may find a growing pool of more creative citizens whom they can tap for innovative ideas.
In a one semester course, Part 4 would be approximately three weeks in duration.
How the parts work together
In Part 1, students identify a sustainability problem in their communities that they are concerned about. An example might be that there is an inadequate supply of freshwater. The cause is untreated waste being dumped directly into the water supply. This contaminated water is the cause of water-borne diseases in the community but community leaders are skeptical of outsiders coming into the community to help mitigate the health problems.
While the primary issue is an inadequate supply of freshwater for the community, the situation directly involves multiple other sustainability issues including health, waste, decision-making, culture, and finance, and may indirectly involve others such as loss of biodiversity, increased poverty, and a lack of public awareness and education.
During Part 2, a student decides that this is a problem that he or she would like to address by designing a strategy in his or her Part 4 student project. The student then researches information about the issues and critically examines example sustainability strategies in the Part 2 materials as he or she begins assemble elements of a strategy for the problem. He or she also begins to communicate with community members who can provide details about the actual problem elements that need to be addressed. Using tools like the Sustainability Strategy Analysis and Application Sheet provided in the course, the student outlines and then builds in details of his or her strategy.
The study of a multi-issue sustainability problem, the Case Study in Part 3, provides the student with a detailed example of how multiple issues can be addressed by a well-designed strategy. The Case Study provides the student with a template of how to organize and present his or her strategy.
In Part 4, with advice from the instructor, the student completes his or her strategy and presents it to peers in the class and, more importantly, to the community.
Students begin using the tools provided in the Supplemental Materials in Part 1. Using the Student Matrix Tracking Sheet in Part 1 provides students with a means of recording the various sustainability issues that their classmates regard as most critical.
The Issue Notes Template provides students with an organized way to continuously record and expand their notes on issues and appropriate strategies during Part 2 and prepare for the Final Examination in Part 4. It also serves as a tool for organizing issue and strategy information for their Part 4 community application projects.
The Sustainability Strategy Analysis and Application Sheet is used in Parts 2, 3, and 4. In Part 2 it works as a tool for diagramming and assessing the strengths, weaknesses, and applicability of sustainability strategies presented, and for outlining student Part 4 project proposals. In Part 3, it helps students diagram and assess the merits of the Part 3 Case Study. In Part 4, the sheet is used by students and community members to assess the viability of the students’ proposed community strategies.
A Glossary and a list of Acronyms and Abbreviations support student work in all sections.
The student materials and the Instructor’s Manual provided are complete and can be used without additional materials. In Part 2, the materials examine sustainability issues at regional and, to a lesser extent, sub-regional and global scales. Use of these course materials will provide students with a strong foundation for understanding the sustainability challenges and opportunities present in Africa.
However, we believe that adding local issue information, sustainability strategies, and case studies will add a layer of immediacy to the course, which will engage students even more. We therefore recommend the addition of local materials whenever possible.
Sustainable Societies in Africa: Modules on Education for Sustainable Development has been designed with this in mind. We suggest that statements by local individuals about sustainability challenges can be added to, or substituted for, some of the statements already provided in Part 1. In Part 2, local issue information can be added to or substituted for the information provided. In Part 3, a local case study can be substituted for the case provided. We believe that Part 4 student projects should always be local. In each Part of the course the materials included provide excellent examples that can be used as templates for the development of local materials.
For the course to be most effective, a class size of twenty to twenty-five students is recommended. Ideally, this size can then be broken down into groups of five or six for small student presentations to the rest of the class, group discussions, and possible team projects. The full class size makes a good audience for presentations of students’ Part 4 projects.
If the class is larger, multiple instructors or tutors should be made available to break down the larger class into groups of not more than twenty to twenty-five.