Education for Sustainable Development in Kenya

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

The Kenya Constitution 2010 prioritizes Sustainable Development as a National Goal. The Government of Kenya has therefore, an obligation to lead all citizens towards attaining this goal. The Government is committed to promoting ESD as a key factor in enabling sustainable development and quality education by implementing the Rio Conventions, UNESCO Global Action Programme (GAP) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Ministry of Education, 2017)

The country endorsed and adopted Agenda 21 that emerged from the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (UN, 1992). Chapter 36 of Agenda 21 elaborated the need for ESD.

The Environmental Management and Coordination Act 1999, Cap 387 is a framework law that provides for effective coordination and regulation of all actions that have a direct influence on the environment. Section 42 (4) of the Basic Education Act stipulates that ‘the Cabinet Secretary of Education shall upon advice of the National Education Board advise the government on the promotion of environmental protection education for sustainable development’. 

Kenya’s development blueprint, Vision 2030, aspires to revitalize the country’s economic growth through harnessing of its natural resources. Education is identified as a key driver under the social pillar. The inspiration was to have an ESD policy developed and all education interventions reoriented to address ESD. 

The 2013-2018 National Education Sector Plan (NESP)[1] provides a strategy for education and training to promote ESD with reference to the United Nations Global Action Programme on ESD. This led to the development of ESD Policy for the Education Sector in 2017. The policy provides, promotes and co-ordinates quality lifelong education, training, research and innovation for Kenya’s sustainable development.

Broadly, the following achievements have been realised with regard to the status of ESD in Kenya. Stakeholders for sustainable development are increasingly taking up education, public awareness and training to advance sustainable development. Secondly, the Government has incorporated education strategies, tools and targets into national sustainable development strategies, climate change plans and related economic frameworks such as the Green Economy. Thirdly, partnerships, collaborations and networks, for example, Regional Centres of Expertise (RCEs) have been formed to enhance the implementation of ESD. And finally, several teachers and education officials have been trained and a number of schools are practising ESD.

Kenya has been putting emphasis on approaches that promote whole-institution development of ESD such as Eco-schools and Green Campus. The Eco-schools Programme has been quoted in the Kenya ESD Policy for Education Sector 2017 as an effective whole institution approaches in mainstreaming sustainability into all aspects of the learning environment (ESD Policy for Education Sector 2017, Pg 5)

Sessional Paper No. 4 of 2012 on Reforming Education and Training in Kenya envisages a curriculum that is competence-based to foster quality education in the country (Republic of Kenya, 2015a). Through this policy, the Ministry of Education is committed to promoting ESD as a key element to enable sustainable development and quality education. To this effect, Kenya is currently rolling out a new Competency Based Curriculum for primary and secondary schools. The new curriculum has sections that deliberately show how ESD can be integrated into the curriculum as a pertinent and emerging issue. 

Educators and trainers are powerful agents of change for implementing ESD UNESCO, 2014). The education sector has increased financial support for capacity development activities and strengthened the Kenya Education Management Institute (KEMI), the agency for building capacities of education managers. The Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA) has been offering pedagogical leadership training to support teachers in implementing effective and innovative classroom practices. CEMASTEA has also been sensitising education and quality assurance officers and County Education Directors on effective management of sustainable and institutionalised in-service education and training of teachers (INSET). Development partners have continued to complement government efforts towards capacity enhancement of education managers (Ministry of Education, 2017)

Regional Centres of Expertise (RCEs) in Kenya have provided useful platforms for capacity building in the sector. As networks of formal, non-formal and informal education organisations, RCEs are catalysing and supporting the reorientation of education and training systems in their regions. The Education Sector is represented in each of the eight Regional Centres of Expertise (RCEs) that are operating in Kenya. 

Despite all the milestones made in enhancing ESD in Kenya, improvement of quality of education at all levels of education still remains a challenge towards attaining ESD in all its facets. The ESD Post 2014 Consultation Report of 2013[2] for the “ESD: towards a programme framework after 2014 Survey reports that the overarching priority education areas and levels are teacher education, technical vocational education and training (TVET) and basic education (primary and secondary education).


Ministry of Education. (2017). Education for Sustainable Development Policy for the Education Sector. Nairobi: UNON Publishing Services Section.


[2] : Education for Sustainable Development: towards a programme framework as follow-up to the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development after 2014

 Input from online survey for Member States, Key Stakeholders and UN Agencies   

Eco-schools: Building Capacity of Educators and Trainers for Sustainable Development

KOEE's Executive Director, Dr. Dorcas Otieno, during an Eco-schools Teachers' training workshop on promoting green economy development in schools. 
Photo. Alvin Sika
KOEE’s Executive Director, Dr. Dorcas Otieno, during an Eco-schools Teachers’ training workshop on promoting green economy development in schools. Photo. Alvin Sika

Educators and trainers are powerful agents of change in helping to remake the education sector to address sustainability and enhance the role of education and learning in sustainable development projects and initiatives.  Teachers can be a tremendous force brought to the task, as teachers worldwide number around 70 million, and the corps of trainers and informal educators is virtually countless. But for educators and trainers to help usher in the transition to a sustainable society, they themselves must first become confident in practicing ESD (UNESCO, 2014). They must be empowered to facilitate confidently and effectively students, trainees and other learners to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to contribute to sustainable development. They themselves need to acquire knowledge about, commitment to, and motivation for sustainable development.

As the world prepares to mark the World Teachers Day (                WTD) on October 5th, it is important to stress the importance empowering teachers to be agents of sustainable development.  World Teachers’ Day commemorates the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. This Recommendation sets benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of teachers and standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions. The World Teachers Day aims to focus on appreciating, assessing and improving the educators of the world and to provide an opportunity to consider issues related to teachers and teaching (UNESCO, 2019).

With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education, and the dedicated target (SDG 4.c) recognizing teachers as key to the achievement of the Education 2030 agenda, WTD has become the occasion to mark progress and reflect on ways to counter the remaining challenges for the promotion of the teaching profession. World Teachers’ Day is co-convened in partnership with UNICEF, UNDP, the International Labour Organization, and Education International.

This year, the World Teachers’ Day will celebrate teachers with the theme, “Young Teachers: The future of the Profession.” The day provides the occasion to celebrate the teaching profession worldwide, to take stock of achievements, and to address some of the issues central for attracting and keeping the brightest minds and young talents in the profession.

Eco-schools Kenya has teacher training as one of its core strategies to enhance sustainability in schools and communities. As one of the steps of the Eco-schools process, over 15,000 teachers have gone through an extensive training course since 2003 to act as Eco-Schools ambassadors. The teachers encourage other schools to effectively address local environmental problems through action based learning following the principles of Eco-Schools. 

In close cooperation with teachers and key governmental institutions the Eco-Schools project has developed wide range of environmental education materials for teachers and learners that comply with Kenyan curriculum requirements to treat environment as a cross curricula issue. The new Kenyan Competency-based Curriculum being rolled out by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development places great emphasis on environmental education as a pertinent and emerging issue. Eco-schools Kenya has developed environmental theme-packs for primary and secondary schools and made available to schools. The theme-packs cover the following issues; water, waste, energy, health, biodiversity and agriculture. Other resource materials developed include: Eco-Schools Handbook Starter Pack (information manual on the Eco-schools programme in Kenya), Teachers’ Environmental Education Guides for primary and Secondary schools, Training Module on Environmental Education and Eco-Schools Documentary video. A Faith-based ESD Toolkit has also been developed to enhance the faith-based value system and positive behaviour in the school and community to promote sustainable development using the eco-school strategy. It also demonstrates how faith-based values can be integrated into Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in the primary school curriculum. Similarly, a teacher’s guidebook has been developed to help transform schools into models of sustainability for communities by instilling in learners a greening culture through mentoring and engaging them in hands-on green entrepreneurship initiatives for sustainability. The guide aims at enhancing the ability of teachers to mainstream green growth in the curriculum. All these materials have acted as tools and resources through which schools use to address sustainability challenges facing them. The materials have been widely acknowledged by relevant authorities in the Kenyan educational sector.


UNESCO. (2014). Roadmap for Implementing the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development. Paris, France: UNESCO.

UNESCO. (2019, September 27). World Teachers’ Day. Retrieved September 27, 2019, from UNESCO: