Education quality in African nature conservation programmes analysed

Many project proposals submitted to the various grants programmes of IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands contained an education component. A first analysis of 21 project proposals and their activities from West (and sometimes Central or East) Africa shed light on some general characteristics and challenges.

Chris Maas Geesteranus

The study Assessment of Education Components in Grants Projects in Africa (1) is dealing with the quality of education processes in 21 African projects with regard to nature conservation, livelihood and similar concepts.

Education is a wide concept and may include activities to enhance commitment of a local community towards nature/ecology/biodiversity, or communication, formal education and awareness campaigns around such issues. If they clearly contain a learning aspect, that makes them education, to be defined as the ‘deliberate organisation and guidance of learning processes’.(2)

This study showed that education, as part of an overall project strategy, was not easy to handle for most of the African NGOs submitting such projects. Nor was it for IUCN NL itself. The following challenging fields were identified:

  1. Description of and proposals for education activities were not always consistent with the nature of education: education is a learning process while educational issues in the proposals and projects were often expressed in terms of materials without a plan how to use them.
  2. Planning and execution of education activities was not always relevant to the objectives of the project, and the results of proposed education activities were often not well connected to other project activities; they stood more or less by themselves.

The main lesson for staff of African partner organisations seems to be that they often were short in knowledge and skills about how to integrate the (intended) outcomes of education activities in the mainstream of the project of which they are part. That requires a more systematic understanding of how to design education activities: their nature, possible results, and target-groups. 

Turning to IUCN NL, something similar applies to those responsible for assessing the quality of education proposals. They may acquire more expertise in monitoring changes in human behaviour in relation to the environment and in assessing the specific role, set-up and results of education activities.

Relevance for IUCN

What could be the relevance of this study for CEC? Primarily it might find its niche between ongoing capacity building programmes of PACO, e.g. the courses that took place for Central and West Africa (like Capacity building for better protected area management and Building capacities for better project design and improved implementation).

More in general, environmental education in West and Central Africa is boosted by the Regional Environmental Education Programme (PREE). See the PACO report ‘In search of sustainability; some outputs of the implementation of the 2009-2012 Programme’. Within that context one should also see the meeting of the CEC National Activators of the region, held in Freetown already in 2010, which may be followed up by practical assistance in designing education for the four target-groups identified during the meeting (general public, schools, governments and private sector).

Finally, the report may be used as a set of guidelines for establishing good education practice in other parts of the world as well, and not only in Latin America or Asia. Connections with the CEPA concept, and thus the specialty group on that matter, should be sought.

For more information, contact Chris Maas Geesteranus,


(1) Maas Geesteranus, Chr. (ed.), 2012. Assessment of Education Components in Grants Projects in Africa. IUCN NL Small Grants Programmes Knowledge Management Series number 4. IUCN NL, Amsterdam

(2) Prof. J.C. Smyth (IUCN Commission on Education and Communication), pers. comm. 2004.


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