Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Ngano: Teaching Environmental Education Using the Shona Folktale

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Ngano: Teaching Environmental Education Using the Shona Folktale

Article excerpt


Most people have a misconception about the environment. They think that the term 'environment' only applies to the nature 'around us'. In this limited view of the environment, they understand it as meaning plants, animals, mountains, etc. In Guidelines for Secondary Teacher Training: Environmental Education in Zimbabwe, the authors have corrected the misconception by pointing out that the concept environment has undergone some redefinition. It now includes social, economic and political components in addition to the traditional biophysical one (2004:1). This view of the environment emerged in the 1970s. Earlier on, the concept environment was mainly used to refer to nature or the biophysical elements of our surroundings. People appeared to be mainly concerned about impacts on nature, plants water and animals (O'Donoghue 1995 in Rhodes University Certificate/Goldfields in Environmental Education: Theme 2 Handout). The first guiding principle for effective environmental education also stresses the multifaceted nature of the environment when they assert that environmental education should, "consider the environment in its totality--natural and built, technological and social (economic, political, cultural--historical, moral, aesthetic)" (Tbilisi Principles Russia 1977). Thus, all the four major aspects of the environment are intertwined, an action that may appear to be political may have an impact on both the social, economic and biophysical environment. For example, the Rhodesian land tenure system (Johnson 2000:124) wherein Blacks were crammed in the over-populated rural areas, this led to over cultivation of the land, and to erosion since most people ended up cutting trees to clear the little space that was available for agriculture, and at the end, there was poverty, an economic consequence of a political decision that was taken for economic reasons--to cushion White Rhodesians. Therefore, some Africans the only way to survive was to become thieves if they were male or prostitutes if they were female, although all these means of survival are frowned upon socially.

Most Shona students are of the opinion that they will be coming across environmental education in geography and environmental science/education for the first time when in actual fact it has always been there in Shona tradition as is reflected in Shona educational vehicles such as folktales, proverbs (Munjanja 1969) and taboos (Tatira 2000). Thus, this paper seeks to focus on only one aspect, the environmental aspects which mainly looks at the social aspect of the environment, and examines the implications of the Shona folktale on environmental education with the understanding that the Shona folktale is used for both didactic and hedonistic purposes, and was used to teach good social behaviour as the hearers of the folktales learned to survive in their environment. Second, this paper also seeks to show the value of story telling in the teaching of environmental education currently via three folktales used to highlight three different social environments, and the impact they have on people today.

The first two folktales relate to the environment and the other is mainly on the social, but also focuses on the biophysical and economic environments to show the interrelatedness of environmental aspects. Hence, the intention of this study is to create awareness in the readership of the new changes taking place in the meaning of the environment as well as to show a possible method that may be used to stimulate dialogue and debate between participants in environmental education.

What is Environmental Education (EE)?

There are several environmental problems in Zimbabwe. These include poverty, AIDS, unemployment, juvenile delinquency, pollution and shortage of clean water. All these environmental problems show that everyone is affected either directly or indirectly. …

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