Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures (TESF)-Funded Projects to Investigate How Education Systems Can Act As Drivers of Sustainable Development

15 Dec 2022

The Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures (TESF) Network Plus, which is a research network funded by the UK Global Challenges Research Fund. UK-GCRF), in partnership with the University of Rwanda-College of Education (URCE) implement a research project with aim of developing understanding of how education systems can act as drivers of sustainable development. Currently fourteen projects selected and funded by the TESF have investigated how education can contribute to addressing challenges of sustainable livelihoods, sustainable cities and communities, and climate action. As these projects are at the phase of final report writing, a national workshop, dubbed TESF-Rwanda Hub Workshop, was organized at the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village (KCEV) from 7-8 December 2022.The workshop aimed at building the capacity of concerned project team members.

The workshop brought together researchers from the University of Rwanda, Non- governmental organizations as well as private researchers involved in the concerned fourteen (14) projects. It aimed to share their experiences, findings, challenges, and reflections from different project teams ; to enable project teams reflect on their projects based on the observations and recommendations from colleagues and different experts, and to support project teams in the process of developing their ideas into final reports.

The workshop activities evolved around the theme "Transformational co-creation research in education for Sustainable Futures".

Through the research process, researchers sought to answer three (3) important questions :
- How can education and training support sustainable cities and communities ?
- How can education contribute to climate action ?
- How can education and training empower communities to achieve sustainable
livelihoods ?

Professor Leon P Tikly is an eminent researcher, professor of education, UNESCO Chair of Inclusive, Quality Education for All, and the Principal Investigator. In an extensive interview he offered to us, he noted "we are looking at the relationship between education and sustainable Futures focusing on sustainable livelihoods and sustainable cities and climate change."

He went on to say that " What is distinctive in this research is that we are hoping to bring together different stakeholders. So, we have excellent colleagues in University of Rwanda. They are partnering with NGOs, all kinds of community organizations, schools, colleges and so on.
He commended the researchers teams for involving community members in their research projects noting that it is very critical to take this into consideration.

He highlighted that “when you involve communities in solving problems of sustainable livelihoods, of cities and climate change you begin to develop more ownership of research. The people involved like to take ownership of the research findings.’’

"If we can involve them at every stage from the moment we think of research problem, on questions, to designing research, to conducting research, to gathering data, to see analyzing data and to disseminating the findings, then it becomes much relevant to every day needs of people in Rwanda’’, Prof Tikley added.

Professor Leon P Tikly, University of Bristol ( UK), the Principal Investigator of the TESF Network Plus, during the interview.

For example, in Musanze District where the project RW78 operates there is remarkable positive impact of involvement of stakeholders and beneficiaries. These include Haguruka NGO representatives, the District representatives, local authorities, Rwanda Transparency, local population whose families participated in the project research, etc. According to testimonies shared, this TESF project has made positive impact to the lives of not only the beneficiaries, but also the entire community. Beneficiaries are living in harmony ; children are going to school and families are developing socially and economically. What the projects are doing to in the community is really impressive.

Another example is that of the project entitled “Using Arts-based approaches to dialogue issues of sustainable development’’seeks to empower young people (secondary school learners), teen mothers and artists to explore obstacles to poverty reduction and girls’ access to education and bring these issues to the attention of policymakers using arts-based approaches. The project team created 5 clubs (1 club per district) each club bringing together 10 secondary school learners, 5 teen mothers, 5 teachers, and 2 artists. In total researchers worked with 85 participants.

’’The project deconstructs current discourses on SDGs which are predominantly adult dominated. Also, the project takes cognizance that young people are given little to no room to voice their perspectives on SDGs,’’ said Associate Professor Sylvestre Nzahabwanayo ( UR-CE), who is the Principal Investigator.

“The project has empowered young people to discuss obstacles to poverty reduction and girls’ access to education using music, dance, drama, theatre, paintings, drawings, poems, and film making. A digital art gallery of songs, paintings, drawings, theatre performances and a movie on the above-mentioned themes has been produced,’’ added Nzahabwanayo.

“Our findings were that :
- recurrent obstacles to poverty reduction : unemployment, poor service delivery, ignorance of public policies, unequal distribution of opportunities, family conflicts, early and unplanned pregnancies, corruption, drunkenness, laziness, mismanagement of family income ; and

- recurrent obstacles to girls’ access to education : family conflicts, early pregnancies, peer pressure, poverty, lack of parental supervision or mentorship, alcoholism of parents, gender stereotypes (a belief that boys are better suited for schooling and girls fare better with household work), smart phones, poverty, high living cost, sugar daddies, child domestic labour, cross-border trading, and gender-based violence,’’ said Nzahabwanayo.

Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures (TESF) is implemented by the University of Rwanda in collaboration with the University of Bristol and other research institutions from Somalia, South Africa and India.

TESF Network Plus is a research network funded by the UK Global Challenges Research Fund ( UK-GCRF) to generate new knowledge that can assist education policy makers, institutions, non-governmental and community-based organizations, and businesses in countries of research focus to implement education policies and practices that can contribute to equitable end environmentally sustainable development. Areas of focus are skills and agency of young people and adults for Sustainable livelihoods, sustainable cities and communities, and climate action.


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