By Basil Omondi

When basic needs come to mind, you quickly think about food, shelter and clothing. Perhaps the most important and overlooked in this category is Water. As the famous adage goes ‘Water is life’ and literally it just means that. Ever imagined going for a week without water? Thirst, hygiene, foods domestic, agriculture, industrial use – water is required in every aspect of human, animal and plant life. In spite of all these, humanity faces a severe crisis if efforts are not focused to conserve water towers and promote sustainable use of water. 

Some worrying statistics from the United Nations prove that water scarcity already affects every continent. Around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation. Another 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage (where countries lack the necessary infrastructure to take water from rivers and aquifers).

Water scarcity is both a natural and a human-made phenomenon. There is enough freshwater on the planet for seven billion people but it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed.

Did you know?

  • Only 3% of the world’s water is fresh of which, 1% is contaminated or polluted while the remaining 2% is unevenly distributed.
  • Approximately 700 million people in 43 countries suffer today from water scarcity.
  • By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions.
  • With the existing climate change scenario, almost half the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030, including between 75 million and 250 million people in Africa. In addition, water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places will displace between 24 million and 700 million people.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest number of water-stressed countries of any region.

In Kenya for instance, more than two thirds of the country is arid and semi arid therefore the residents of such areas have no access to water, made worse by effects of climate change. Perrenial droughts impact the lives of an increasing number of Kenyans and their livestock, through decreased livelihoods and well being. The worst part is that the drought patterns are predictable but the Government largely seems to respond only when disaster strikes. There is an urgent need for more proactive measures to help mitigate the effects of drought. Despite the obvious links between climate change and water scarcity in Kenya, the challenges seem to be politicised, a major setback in trying to achieve water sustainability for current and future generations. 

Kenya is on the world map for hosting the Seventh Wonder of the world that is the wildbeeste migration across the Mara River. Howver the Mara River is slowly but steadily drying up! It is devastating to imagine losing such an important part of the country’s heritage because of reckless environmental management. 

To curb this, everybody must be committed to playing their role. Individuals must change personal habits inorder to conserve and recycle water as much as possible. Government entities tasked to manage this important resource must be empowered to deliver on their mandate in a timely manner without interference. Industries that emmit their raw effluents into water bodies should be fined heavily and also bear the costs of cleaning their pollution, and shit down if non-compliant. 

The Kenya Organisation for Environmental Education (KOEE) is playing a key role in educating schools and communities through initiatives such as the Eco-schools programme under Education for Sustainable Development, where students in participating schools learn about environmentally sound practices. This is important in bringing up future generations that care for the environment and have the competencies to make truly sustainable development a reality in Kenya. 

Professor Wangari Maathai,’“The generation that destroys the environment is not the generation that pays the price. That is the problem.” 

Kenya’s new Curriculum Mirrors Education for Sustainable Development

By David Wandabi – Programs Officer – Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) & Eco-schools Coordinator

There have been mixed reactions towards the new Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) designed by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) and launched by the Ministry of Education in 2017. The CBC places emphasis on developing skills and knowledge and applying them to real life situations as opposed to content as it is under the 8-4-4 system.

Perhaps the biggest opponent of the CBC is the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), which has been encouraging its members to shun the new curriculum. KNUT has argued that inadequate teacher training, poor infrastructure, lack of legal framework and huge budgetary implications are the reasons that the CBC should be out rightly rejected. This discussion has been gathering momentum even as Parliament approved Kshs.2.4 billion for implementation of the new system in May 2019.

However, some reports have indicated that the real reason behind KNUT’s hard stance is that the giant teachers’ union fears the CBC will dilute the role of teachers in teaching and learning processes. KNUT also argues that CBC reforms fit into the global education reforms movement modelled around huge business interests that are increasingly facing rejection worldwide. The union officials argue that by reducing teachers to mere facilitators of learning, children will be allowed to learn on their own, creating ‘artificial intelligence’ in education. 

But maybe we should take some time to reflect on the reason that necessitated the curriculum reforms as we try to interrogate claims that the CBC will put teachers at the periphery of teaching and learning process. 

The current 8-4-4 system of education was introduced in 1985 based on a guiding philosophy of “education for self-reliance‟. There have been recurring complaints that the education system has been producing graduates who are ill-prepared to fit into the world of work. Evaluations of the 8-4-4 system have revealed an overloaded curriculum, poorly equipped workshops to facilitate learning of practical skills, and poorly trained teachers. Therefore the graduates at secondary school level have not been acquiring adequate entrepreneurial skills for self-reliance. Apart from the high unemployment arising from this phenomenon, there has also been the increase in social vices such crime, drug abuse and antisocial behaviour.

These were driving factors that led stakeholders in the education sector to call for the introduction of a curriculum that would provide flexible education pathways for identifying and nurturing the talents and interests of learners early enough to prepare them for the world of work, career progression and sustainable development.

The CBC focuses on competencies as opposed to content under the 8-4-4 system. The system is flexible with opportunities for specialisation through various pathways and it balances between formative and summative assessments. Teachers will play a critical role in learning by students, with teacher training being an ongoing process rather than an event.

Therefore CBC provides an opportunity to nurture every learner’s potential through quality education. As a result, they will be enabled to contribute more meaningfully to the world around them – economically, culturally, socially and politically.

This is the ultimate goal of Education for Sustainable Development. Despite the widely understood role of education as a catalyst for building a better, more sustainable future for all, our basic education curriculum has been faulted of not fully preparing learners to meet a wide range of sustainable development challenges, whether we are talking about climate change, the loss of biodiversity and cultural diversity, or persistent poverty and social inequality.  

Sustainable development cannot be achieved by political agreements, financial incentives or technological solutions alone. It requires a wholesale change in the way we think and act – a rethink of how we relate to one another and how we interact with the ecosystems that support our lives and livelihoods. To create a world that is more just, more peaceful, and more sustainable, all individuals and societies must be equipped and empowered by knowledge, skills and values as well as heightened awareness to drive such change.  This is where education has a critical role to play. The design of the CBC is perfectly suited to ensure this is achieved. Just like the goal of Education for Sustainable Development, the CBC seeks to empower learners to take informed decisions and responsible actions for environmental integrity, economic viability and a just society for present and future generations, while respecting cultural diversity. Therefore there is need for KNUT and other stakeholders in the education sector to come to embrace the curriculum’s new direction, and work together to address key concerns, for the sake of our children and their future. 


By Ojuka Vincent Ochieng

Department of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) – KOEE


As the global community gathers today in different regions, countries and continents to mark World Environment Day under the “#beatairpollution” theme, it is noble to reflect what awaits humanity as a result of environmental pollution, particularly emanating from gaseous particles – air pollution – which is one of the biggest environmental threats. Scientific research has generated the following facts about this unfortunate and mind-blowing environmental crime: 

  • One in eight deaths in the world is caused by air pollution,
  • 92 percent of the world’s population lives in areas with poor air quality
  • Annually, indoor air pollution claims about 4.3 million lives globally

Air pollution comes from mobile sources (car, bus, train combustions), stationary sources (power plants, industries), area sources (agricultural area, wood burning fireplaces) and natural sources (wind blowing dust, wildfires and volcanoes). The impacts of the pollution include but are not limited to respiratory and health problems, global warming, acid rain, eutrophication, depletion of the ozone layer among others. 

Air Pollution and Sustainable Development

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals aim to end extreme poverty and create a healthy, sustainable world by the year 2030. The center focus is on the health and well-being of people and our planet, which means air pollution – the deaths, and disabilities it causes and its close links to climate change – is a huge threat to delivering on the vision of a better world. Sustainability calls for inter and intra relationship among the economic, social and the environmental aspects of the goals.Air pollution takes its toll on the economy in several ways: it costs human lives, it reduces people’s ability to work, it affects vital products like food, it damages cultural and historical monuments, it reduces the ability of ecosystems to perform functions societies need and it costs money in remediation or restoration. Socially it is notable that there are indiscriminate impacts of air pollution to the female gender as they tend to suffer more; the children and the elderly the most vulnerable to the bad effects of the pollution.Regrattably most developing countries are facing environmental challenges caused by the industrialization in developed nations causing a mythical gap that need to be addressed. Environmental quality is also dependent on the amount of gaseous materials that are released into the atmosphere. These particles are always associated to environmental impacts like climate change and its associated effects.

Way Forward

As in the 17thSustainable development goal, there needs to be a concerted effort and partnerships for beating air pollution and its impact on humanity and nature.Nations,continents and the global community needs to come together in addressing this dragon that has claimed lives of people across the world. Policies that are directed towards addressing this pollution needs to be well framed in targeting key polluters and  in as much as pollution get the required political well and good governance in their implementations. We cannot afford to give the future generations a compromised environment that is polluted and degraded thus we must all stand firm to help in beating air pollution.