Building a climate smart education system in Zimbabwe
May 24, 2024 by Diana Ortiz, IIEP/UNESCO, and Mathilde Tréguier, IIEP/UNESCO |
4 minutes read

In Zimbabwe, GPE is working with partners to reinforce the country's capacity to mainstream climate change adaptation and environmental sustainability into its education sector plans, budgets and strategies.


GPE’s Climate Smart Education Systems Initiative has started to roll out support – at a time when it is needed most. In partnership with UNESCO, IIEP-UNESCO, and Save the Children, GPE is reinforcing the capacity of countries to mainstream climate change adaptation and environmental sustainability into their education sector plans, budgets and strategies.

Zimbabwe is the first of 35 eligible countries to access and tailor this technical assistance in support of its education system transformation priorities.

The first workshop took place in April 2024 where initiative partners and ministry officials came together in Harare to identify the main climate change stressors in the country and evaluate the impacts of climate change on Zimbabwe’s education system.

The need for a climate smart education system

Climate change and extreme weather events are a global issue. However, some countries like Zimbabwe face higher risks. The current situation in the country and region is a stark reminder. On April 3, 2024, Zimbabwe declared a state of national disaster over a devastating drought sweeping across much of southern Africa.

This is not the first time that Zimbabwe has been impacted by such extreme weather events; for example, the 2015 drought and the 2019 Cyclone Idai.

The education sector is not spared the effects of extreme weather. Schools, teachers, and students are all negatively impacted and can lose out on learning time, highlighting the need to strengthen the resilience of the education sector by mainstreaming climate adaptation and environmental sustainability.

A workshop to analyze risk

The April workshop focused on identifying the key climate change stressors in Zimbabwe and on analyzing the effects of climate change on education. More specifically, the participants learned how to analyze climate and education data to identify the schools that are in drought-prone areas.

Now, the ministry of education and partners know how to identify schools that are most at risk so that they can take decisive action.

James Junior Ngoma, Senior Meteorologist, Meteorological Service Department of Zimbabwe making a presentation during the workshop. Credit: IIEP-UNESCO/Diana Ortiz
James Junior Ngoma, Senior Meteorologist, Meteorological Service Department of Zimbabwe making a presentation during the workshop.

The participants also analyzed projections for temperature and precipitation so that there is a long-term perspective on climate risks to the education system.

Knowing which schools will be most affected can help ministries use scarce resources more efficiently to ensure that all students, including the most marginalized, are protected from climate shocks and have uninterrupted learning.

“We expect this workshop to help us inform the development of climate change adaptation measures and formulate policy interventions that will mitigate the education sector against the negative effects of climate change.”

Cloud Nyambuya, Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) acting director for Strategic Policy Planning, Research and Statistics

The participation of ministry officials from the provincial level was key to the success of the workshop. Their perspective and knowledge are necessary for understanding the impacts of climate risks on education and we learned more about the actions that they already take to mitigate these impacts at the provincial level.

The effects of climate change on the Zimbabwean education system

Zimbabwe has a large youth population, with 43% of the population younger than 18 years old. UNICEF’s Children’s Climate Risk Index ranked Zimbabwe at “high risk” of climate-induced disasters. These factors mean that education is both at high risk of disruption affecting a large number of learners, and a critically important sector when it comes to child-focused climate adaptation strategies.

In fact, we’re seeing how events like floods and droughts affect school closures, enrollment, infrastructure, and children’s well-being.

The main value of GPE’s climate smart education systems initiative

One of the key values of GPE’s Climate Smart Education Systems Initiative is that it emphasizes engagement and cross-sectoral collaboration.

In Zimbabwe, we are already seeing how the initiative is enabling the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to engage in discussions with other ministries including the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate.

This is key for developing capacity of ministry staff for coordination on climate adaptation strategies in education effectively and collectively. The initiative also equips key stakeholders at all levels with skills and methodologies to analyze relevant data and information in relation to climate change and to better plan for a more resilient education system.

Looking forward

We hope that all partner countries will have the capacity to design and implement climate adaptation and environmental sustainability measures with a focus on the most vulnerable populations and that are grounded on evidence.

Climate-resilient education systems are essential for protecting the fundamental right to education, building a green future, and fostering equitable and just societies.

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