Waste management training manual for primary schools

By Reagan Kandole, Executive Director of ECOaction

ECOaction and its partners (Sustainable Futures in Africa Network, Kampala City Council Authority, Makerere University, Design hub Kampala and the US Embassy) aim to promote and sustain proper solid waste management practices and environmental awareness within schools and communities in Kampala, Uganda. The team aims to teach educators and learners how reducing, reusing and recycling solid waste can make a difference to their school, community, and the environment.

ECOaction has the skills and resources to support this development of this knowledge and practice in schools. In 2019-2020, they worked with Environment and Sanitation clubs in primary schools across Kampala City, on the “Clean Air” project that aimed to help schools to achieve proper waste management. ECOaction and partners collaborated with a group of experts to develop a “tool kit” or teaching and learning manual for waste management and recycling in primary schools.

A curriculum specialist from Makerere University, Dr Leah Sikoyo, and Dr Mia Perry from the University of Glasgow have co-developed the manual with ECOaction community artists, and a local designer. The objective of this manual is to build upon ECOaction’s efforts to sensitize school children on environmental awareness. In particular, the resource relates to proper waste management, through hands-on practical activities relating to reusing and recycling everyday waste to generate useful products for various activities within the school and surrounding communities. The practices described contribute to a clean environment and sustainable livelihoods. The manual introduces the justifications, principles and practices of proper waste management and demonstrates how these can be integrated into the primary school curriculum through relevant themes and topics.

Two flexible and adaptable school projects are suggested in the manual through step-by-step instructions; curriculum thematic connections; and visual illustrations and examples. Finally, each activity is linked to out-of-school and community practices for the broader learning and development in family and community contexts. The extended team strongly believes that this manual provides a unique and powerful resource to schools at this time, and aims to increase the reach and impact of this resource as well as build upon it to develop other resources for educational use.


High Cost of Electricity Is A Major Cause of Climate Change

By Vanessa Duclos, Network Manager

SFA member and PhD student, Anthony Kadoma, has had his first piece of writing published in Uganda national newspaper ‘New Vision’. The article is titled ‘High Cost of Electricity Is A Major Cause of Climate Change’.

It is surprising that despite all our water bodies in form of lakes and rivers, including the River Nile, which is the longest river in Africa, the percentage of Ugandans with access to electricity is the lowest in eastern Africa save for Burundi and South Sudan. The percentage of the citizens that have access to power in the East African region as reported by the World Bank in 2018 was: Burundi (11.02%), South Sudan (22.03%), Uganda (26%), Rwanda (34.72), Tanzania (35.56%) and Kenya (75%). When it comes to the availability of water from where most of the power is generated, Uganda leads all the countries with almost 15% of her land covered by freshwater lakes and swamps. Kenya only has 1.93%, Rwanda 3% and Tanzania 6.49% of its total landmass covered by water and swamps. This clearly shows that Uganda has an advantage over its neighbours. Then the question is why do few Ugandans have access to electricity? One of the reasons is that the cost of accessing and using power is costly for most Ugandans.

There are connection costs, wiring costs, monthly bills to pay, repair costs as well as the cost resulting from the malfunctioning of power, which has been reported to cause huge losses. Another hidden cost is that of load shedding if intended or just the power disappearing without one being alerted. This has spoilt the user’s electricity gadgets with no one to compensate them.

The second reason is that the settlement patterns in Uganda make it so expensive and difficult to have many of the citizens connected to the national grid. Almost all the parts of Uganda are habitable resulting in the scattering of homesteads all over the country, making it hard for them to be connected to the national grid.

Thirdly, there has been mismanagement of some of the government efforts to increase connections to the national grid. Programmes like rural electrification, connecting all-district and sub-county headquarters as well as health facilities are all commendable, but inadequate and do not directly target individual households.

With a handful of Ugandans having electricity in their homes even though they use it for lighting other than cooking, there is a big challenge. Almost all Ugandans whether in urban or rural areas cook using charcoal. This charcoal that is derived from cutting down trees has contributed to a great loss in terms of their acreage.

To make matters worse, the water supplied by the National Water and Sewerage Corporation cannot be consumed unless boiled first because of line leakages. This means that more trees must be cut down for homes to have clean water to drink, adding to our already burdened environment. When the forests are cleared rainfall becomes unreliable, seasons unpredictable, dry seasons are prolonged, crop yields are low, and ultimately limited household incomes.


IMPACT STORY: How an SFA Webinar influenced the curricula of an educational institution in Malawi

By Dora Nyirenda, Research Administration, Malawi Hub

Edited by: Alex Maxwell, PGR, UK

During the COVID-19 pandemic, while most people were locked in their homes, the internet helped SFA continue to connect The SFA Malawi Hub was privileged to host a webinar with Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil on Ecosystem Based Disaster Risk Reduction at the end of April, 2020. The Director of Mzimba Christian Vocational School (MCVS) – a faith-based educational institution in Malawi which takes on ten students every year from across Malawi – and his staff, participated in the webinar which aimed at educating, informing and sharing knowledge on Ecosystem Disaster Risk Reduction. As an institution that tries to implement technology through applied research to develop solutions for the local context, the staff were able to learn examples of how ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction can be applied to disasters.  

The webinar was a knowledge sharing session, but could prove to have a deeper and longer-lasting impact for Malawi more generally, with the MCVS staff inspired to change their curricula to include thtopic. The curriculum developed through the webinar aims to tackle disasters such as floods, droughts, strong winds, and land-slidesLorent Mvulathe Director of Disaster Preparedness, Relief and Management of MCVS explains on how this is useful for the future of Malawians, Using the Ecosystem Based Disaster Risk Reduction information in the curriculum can help reduce vulnerability in exposed communities’It is believed that including ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction (EBDRR) in the curriculum will inform people and communities on the means to saving lives and peoples’ properties through critically thinking about the different ways to tackle everyday challenges. 

Staff believe the course will help students to understand the symbiotic interdependence between variables within the ecosystem which will then mitigate communities from destroying the local ecosystems. The knowledge gained can then be disseminated countrywide and support ecosystems across Malawi. There are additional requirements for the new curriculum to be successful, from teaching materials to building instructors capacities but it is believed that with this support, communities across Malawi will be better equipped and more resilient to dealing with the damaging effects from natural disasters.  

*Post based on an interview with Mzimba Christian Vocational School Director and Staff (Interviewer: Dora Nyirenda) 


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February 2021 - Waste Management in primary schools

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Mbabane Flash Floods; a Time to Ponder and Act

By Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil, SFA Co-Director, Eswatini and Malawi Hub

On 6th of February 2020, Mbabane residents in the Kingdom of Eswatini experienced unprecedented flash floods which wreaked havoc in the city, flooding the Plaza, The New Mall and the Industrial Area. It was a storm accompanied by lightning, thunder, hail, strong winds and heavy rainfall in a short period of a few hours. Some say that a similar incident occurred in 2005, others say they never saw anything like this in their lives. Was the incident on 6th February a cloud burst? The Cambridge Dictionary describes a “cloud burst” as a heavy fall of rain that begins and ends suddenly, often accompanied by thunder and lightning. Whether it was a cloud burst or not may need verification from the Department of Meteorology. However, no verification is needed  to state that the rainfall/storm/cloudburst brought the city of Mbabane to a halt.

The New Mall car park, which experienced flash flooding on 6 February 2020 – Mbabane, Eswatini

Streams overflowed, leading to roads, car parks and shops being flooded (in some areas up to knee height).  Several cars were affected, possibly damaged beyond repair. A lot of water runoff from the highway also went into the streams in Mbabane city, further contributing to the overflows and flooding. Supermarkets and shops incurred losses when their merchandise got wet/soaked. It is not clear how much the damage from these flash floods cost or how many shops were insured. In addition to businesses getting flooded, the electricity supply in the city was affected. Trees fell and several electric poles snapped or fell, requiring the Eswatini Electricity Company to work all night to restore power to the affected residents of Mbabane.

Such events make one ponder the big global challenge of our times, Climate Change. With Climate change, such heavy downpours are expected to increase in frequency. According to scientists, southern Africa may experience a mean annual temperature rise. Although mean annual rainfall in the region as a whole will decline, an increase in the intensity of high-rainfall events is projected to occur. Rising air and sea surface temperatures have the potential to lead to more frequent and intense tropical storms in the southern Indian Ocean, and can contribute to more frequent droughts.  These trends are going to affect almost all sectors, including public infrastructure and the private sector.

The heavy downpour of 6th February brings to light how infrastructure planning and the construction of commercial buildings can increase vulnerability to flooding. It is time to ask some important questions. Are the highways and roads which divert storm water to streams into the city actually contributing to flash flooding? Are shops and buildings built on low lying areas, including wetlands, a factor contributing to the increasing risk of flooding? Perhaps this is an opportune time to plan interventions to reduce the risk of such climate and weather shocks. We need to consider issues such as climate proofing infrastructure, disaster risk financing, and insurance to minimize vulnerability.

Coincidentally, during the week of the heavy rainfall event, the National Disaster Management Agency was holding a multi-stakeholder workshop at Mbabane. The purpose of the workshop was to provide training in disaster risk financing and how to create a drought risk monitor and management plan, learning from the 2015/16 El Niño induced drought. This is a welcome initiative given that disaster risk reduction and increasing preparedness and mitigation capacity is urgently needed, particularly in the context of rapid urbanization and the accompanying high hazards to which urban populations and their assets are exposed. The nation is also undertaking a National Adaptation Process, where risk reduction for such flash floods may need to be prioritized.

Short Video of the flash flooding on 6 February 2020 – Mbabane, Eswatini

Mbabane city was able to bounce back after this heavy rainfall event. Shops were cleaned up and opened the very next day.  Fallen trees were removed and electricity restored to residents within hours. But the question remains: how many flooding events can we afford in a year? With climate change, we know that the severity and intensity of droughts and floods are expected to increase in future. This calls for greater engagement with the private sector to ensure their participation in climate change adaptation efforts and Disaster Risk Reduction. Additionally, this incident has brought to light the need to integrate green (ecological), grey (built-environment) and blue (water) infrastructure. There is a compelling business case for the private sector to invest in these measures, because the alternative of bearing the costs of the recurring adverse impacts of floods and droughts may be too high for their business operations. There is no time to lose. We do not want future disasters to affect us, and to watch our future slip through our fingers, just like water.


Covid-19: The ‘Statue’

By Tom Ketlogetswe, Thapong Visual Arts Center, Botswana

Back in my childhood we used to play a game called ‘statue’. Played as a group, the game coordinator, situated in the middle, will ask us to run or walk. Whenever he/she uttered the word ‘statue’ everyone would freeze their motions immediately. Failure to freeze ones motion would lead to some kind of reprimand.

The Coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly flipped a ‘statue’ switch in our lives. Normal life has been frozen. Thapong Visual Art Centre in Gaborone, Botswana has not been spared the ‘statue’ moment. It has been more than two months since the centre tried to open its doors to art lovers to view a collection of 38 artworks themed around the Coronavirus. The exhibition comprises of paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, ceramics and mixed media.

Majority of the works are a narrative of the pandemic. In majority of the works, the mask has become the symbol of the pandemic. Kedumetse Tshidiso’s painting titled ‘Run’ depicts the Coronavirus as a gigantic bird that unleashes pandemonium on the masses. Thabo Keorapetse’s ‘Waiting on the pandemic’ is a photograph showing dejected woman and child at a bus stop. In Gofaone Thebeetsile’s ‘Tourism’ painting, he paints a bleak future for the industry. Emmanuel Senamolela, a ceramist, uses pottery to represent the ‘feeling’ under the corona virus.

Other artists, such as Wailer Motsumi and Gabriel Puskas, are optimistic in their works. Motsumi’s sculpture titled ‘Education continues after  lockdown’ shows a girl in full school gear confidently walking to school. Puskas’s ‘Light in the dark’ painting is one of the few nonrepresentational pieces that suggest that amidst the dark and gloom there is a ray of light. In an effort to outwit the ‘statue’ coordinator, Thapong is working around the clock to showcase the exhibition in social media platforms.


A life changed - Narrative from a fresh University of Glasgow Alumnus

By Stewart Paul, SFA Malawi Hub

The past 12 months of my life (September 2019 to August 2020) have been quite defining. It was the first time that I lived outside Africa, in search of a “good” education. Through a prestigious Scottish Funding Council (SFC)-Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) funded project, I was able to access high quality postgraduate education at the “World Changing” University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom. I have been able to get international exposure and connections to professionals from various institutions such as the Glasgow School of Arts and Glasgow Dental Hospital and School. I have also received professional development trainings such as the Graduate Skills Program (GSP) and the Professional Skills Program (PSP) offered by the University of Glasgow – College of Social Sciences.

The scholarship that I was awarded had a research budget attached to it – which would have necessitated me to travel to and undertake research activities in Malawi. My research interest was on the implications – for access and attainment – of foreign aid on education policy and practice in Malawi. Although I managed to travel to Malawi between December 2019 and January 2020 for pre-research activities, I was not able to proceed with the rest of the research plan due to the unprecedented impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic. Regardless, I was able to carry out a robust piece of research after changing the study design and methodology.

The studentship supported me to build academic skills that turn out to be very pivotal in enabling me to progress in my career trajectory in socio-ecological sustainability and community education in Malawi. The academic and research skills, the expanded international experience and network, and the outputs and outcomes of this research will put me in a strong position to develop this work through doctoral studies, through direct research contribution to the Malawian Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) hub in general and Abundance NGO specifically, and to the education and development sector more broadly. In the end, I hope and intend to significantly contribute to changing other people’s lives, especially youths in the area of education and development.


ESRC Festival of Social Sciences

The Whose Crisis project will participate to the 2020 ESRC Festival of Social Sciences (FoSS) which will take place online from Nov 7th to 15th.

Although COVID-19 is a health issue, the crisis is far more than a health crisis. It is a social and cultural one that is currently poorly understood and minimally represented in the context of the Global South. The Whose Crisis? event will showcase and explore the essential social science expertise and insights required to provide critical insights to the complex nature and sustainable pathways to recovery of this pandemic. In this way, the social sciences are positioned to inform and contribute to more equitable global responses including those related to health, policy, economics, and education. Decisions, perspectives, and opportunities are being made and missed every week as the global condition shifts. It is possible that the peak of the pandemic is yet to happen in Africa and the unintended consequences of an unchecked monolithic Northern narration of this global issue will be devastating to already vulnerable populations. This social science event contributes to an international project that is an important part of the re-balancing of knowledges and perspectives.

Register to the event