Education for Sustainable Development: Visit to Aride Island |20 November 2021
Prior to his participation at the 41st session of the General Conference of Unesco Paris, in France, taking place from November 9 to 24, 2021, Dr Justin Valentin, the Minister for Education, led the executive committee of the Ministry of Education on a working session on Education for Sustainable Development on Aride Island on Friday October 29, 2021.
The delegation included the two principal secretaries of the Ministry of Education and other senior members from the ministry. We were welcomed by the chief executive, Norman Weber, and deputy chief executive, Shane Emilie, of the Island Conservation Society (ICS), who provided running commentary during a much appreciated nature tour led by a young and engaged conservation staff of the island, Annie Gendron.
Our team was not only able to reconnect with undisturbed and protected nature, but also learned more about how Education for Sustainable Development practices are translated into real life through the operations of ICS on Aride.
Stepping onto the island’s pristine, powdery-white sand with the spectacular sight of bird species swarming overhead, oblivious to our presence, the island of Aride could not have been but the perfect place to conduct the session. The island is located 9 kilometres north of Praslin and reachable only by dinghy so as to deter mass tourism and poachers who menace the wildlife. Once heavily developed with agriculture and coconut plantation, and even bird’s egg harvesting, it was declared a special bird reserve under Seychelles’ National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act in 1975 and this provided the island’s flora and fauna protection under law. Aride, like Aldabra and Bird Island, is known to be one of the world’s unique bird sanctuaries. It is home to amazing wildlife and species endemic only to Seychelles. Most famously, it is the abode of the world’s largest population of tropical shearwater and lesser Noddy.
The island has been managed by Island Conservation Society (ICS) since 2004 and the society has done significant work in restoring the habitat to something close to its former glory. As part of its mandate, ICS promotes SDG4, as the organisation believes that youth empowerment and education are the keys to a sustainable future.
ICS participated in the working session with a presentation by the assistant conservation officer, Megan O’Brien. This was followed by a presentation by the secretary-general of the Seychelles National Commission for Unesco (SG-SeyNatCom), Vicky Gendron-Michel, on the setting up of a National Technical Working Group for Education for Sustainable Development (TWG-ESD), engaging the delegation in the understanding of the Terms of reference. The TWG-ESD, we were informed, will design a 5-year Action Plan and carry out activities to implement the ESD for 2030 Roadmap. The Roadmap is a 10-year global framework for the implementation of SDG 4.7 on ESD. It is one of the key targets in the SDGs that addresses the purpose and quality of education. The framework guides member states on 5 priority action areas for the implementation of Agenda 2030 through ESD namely through advancing policy, promoting a whole institution approach, building the capacity of educators, empowering and mobilising the youth, and taking action in the community.
A discussion started as to members who will form part of this working group. The TWG-ESD will be a sub-committee of the Seychelles National Commission for Unesco and will be composed of representatives from educational and environmental institutions, youth organisations, non-governmental organisations, and other relevant ESD stakeholders.
All committed parties are set to follow through on the discussions entered into on Aride, as education remains the key lever to save the planet.
The accompanying photographs show highlights of the visit to Aride.