On Saturday, it was International Youth Day, and this year’s theme is Green Skills for Youth. Otherwise known as “skills for the future”, Green Skills encompass a range of capacities that help individuals to “contribute to a socially-, economically, and environmentally-just human society”[1].

It’s a significant day in sub-Saharan Africa, where 70% of the population is under the age of 30[2]. In our lifetime alone, over half of the world’s youth population will be African[3]. This population is growing up at a pivotal moment in sub-Saharan Africa’s development history; where advancing technology, urbanisation, forced migration, and climate change threaten to make or break societies [4]. PEAS believe that secondary schools have a unique role to play in ensuring youth acquire the right skills, knowledge, and competencies to confront the challenges and seize the opportunities ahead.

PEAS’ secondary schools are built in poor, rural communities; communities that make a relatively minimal contribution to global emissions, but are likely to be some of the most vulnerable to climate shocks. In this context, we focus on supporting our students and communities to develop essential “skills for the future” that help them mitigate the risks and adapt to the impact of climate change.

PEAS secondary schools deliver a climate smart curriculum which is tailored to the local environment and helps students understand and adapt to potential climate shocks. Our schools deliver the national curriculum which, in both Uganda and Zambia, includes modules to increase student understanding of climate change and enables students to take action. PEAS schools also offer Agriculture as a core subject, helping students to gain practical and technical skills that would allow them to work in a range of industries. Equipped with ICT and science labs, PEAS schools support students to develop critical ICT and STEM skills.

PEAS schools provide opportunities beyond the national curriculum to help students develop the skills they need to lead socially responsible lives after school. PEAS Zambia Schools have established Climate Action Clubs, whose members assemble to raise awareness about and find solutions to climate-related challenges in their local environment. Our schools have also introduced a Junior Engineers, Technologists and Scientists Club where students are encouraged to explore various STEM fields, conduct experiments, and work on projects that promote problem-solving, critical thinking and innovation.

Other extra-curricular activities include PEAS’ Life Skills and Livelihoods Programmes, which help students make healthy choices, cooperate with others, and make a positive contribution to their community. Both programmes align to the “Green Skills Framework” [5], developing students’ critical skills such as finance, entrepreneurship, a growth mindset, and sexual reproductive health and rights. Reports from students participating in these programmes show significant improvements in communication skills (94.2%), decision-making skills (90.9%), and teamwork skills (88.2%), all of which are generic capacities within the Green Skills Framework[6].

We know that girls and women in rural areas are disproportionately impacted by climate shocks, and that climate change exacerbates pre-existing gender disparities in education. So, PEAS schools prioritise student safety to ensure adolescent girls gain a quality secondary education in a safe learning environment. All PEAS schools have robust safeguarding systems, accredited by “Keeping Children Safe”, and a trained Senior Woman Teacher who oversees female students’ welfare, leads girls’ pastoral support and coordinates girl-focused activities. Through in-service training, we support our teachers to create gender-responsive classrooms, where stereotypes are challenged, and all students are encouraged to participate. Evidence shows that girls at our schools feel safer, learn faster, are more confident and better equipped for life after school then their peers at other schools[7].

PEAS schools foster resilience, adaptability, and leadership amongst female students, supporting them to effectively advocate for their needs, participate in decision-making processes and lead climate action. 50% of student leader positions are reserved for girls, and our inclusive student councils are safe spaces where students voice concerns and take action. PEAS’ Girls’ Clubs provide a forum to discuss sensitive issues, and external evidence shows that they are effective in influencing girls’ beliefs on gender equality, and developing their self-esteem, decision-making and entrepreneurial skills[8]. PEAS has also piloted ‘Boys for Change’ Clubs in Zambia to ensure boys have safe spaces to discuss gender-related challenges and become champions for gender equality.

Beyond the classroom, PEAS schools act as community hubs for positive change. PEAS teachers engage regularly with the local community through open-days, Parent-Teacher Associations and Boards of Governors to support girls to succeed in safe learning environments. Parents and caregivers are often involved in tree planting and protection of exiting trees in the school compound, and school leaders support them to expand this practice to other community spaces beyond the school walls.

We want to make sure that all students have the opportunity to develop essential skills for the future. That’s why we work hand-in-hand with governments to strengthen wider education systems. Across Uganda and Zambia, PEAS is currently working with governments in 245 government schools (reaching 130,000+ students) to test and identify successful approaches to drive improvement that can be embedded into national systems.

[1] A new green learning agenda: Approaches to quality education or climate action Brookings-Green-Learning-FINAL.pdf

[2] Young people’s potential, the key to Africa’s sustainable development, Young People’s Potential, the Key to Africa’s Sustainable Development | Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States

[3] Population data from United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) Population Division Database.

[4] Secondary Education in Africa: Preparing Youth for the Future of Work. Secondary Education in Africa: Preparing Youth for the Future of Work – Mastercard Foundation (mastercardfdn.org)

[5] A new green learning agenda: Approaches to quality education or climate action Brookings-Green-Learning-FINAL.pdf

[6] GEARRing Up for Success: GEC-T Endline Report. PEAS+GECT+Endline+final+report+-+190821.pdf (squarespace.com)

[7] GEARRing Up for Success: GEC-T Endline Report. PEAS+GECT+Endline+final+report+-+190821.pdf (squarespace.com)

[8] PEAS Girls’ Enrolment, Attendance, Retention and Results (GEARR) Project: Summary of Key Findings. PEAS+GECT+Endline+final+report+-+190821.pdf (squarespace.com)

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