The Murray & Roberts Chair of Environmental Education and Sustainability has graduated close on 200 Masters students as well as 30-and-counting PhDs, proving the Centre to be a hub for postgraduate study. It is the only Environmental Education Chair in Africa and was first established in 1990 with Dr Eureta Rosenberg at the helm. In 2000 Prof Heila Lotz-Sisitka assumed the Chair and the Environmental Learning and Research Centre (ELRC) was purpose built for its activities in 2010.
Aside from their initial funding for 16 years and a committed trust fund for scholarships thereafter, Murray & Roberts also fund one of the big flagship projects, the Fundisa for Change Project which is a national teacher education programme operating across the country.
Lotz-Sisitka attributes the attraction to study at the ELRC to the variety of options offered to postgraduates, “We have a focus on schooling, community education and workplace education. We work quite responsively with contextual issues within these areas, with some of our students working in fisheries education and training, agriculture and conservation education or climate change education (amongst others). Our students also work across a range of educational platforms, including early childhood, formal, informal, vocational, and higher education. Core to our work is a focus on environmental learning in all of these contexts.”
A conference bringing together Alumni and current students in October will ring in the Chair’s next 25 years of environmental education. The Centre is also hoping to publish a book with some of their key findings that they can share in an accessible manner.
The ELRC’s work for the environment is ongoing, “We’ve contributed to the development of new qualifications in the country, we are now busy on a project on green-skills system-building. You can’t really work in a society that is transforming itself without being part of that, it is ongoing. This has been challenging because South Africa has developed lots of new environmental policies, there are many emerging issues. The education and training system has to be part of these transformations in society, it can’t be outside of it, ” added Lotz-Sisitka
In last year’s Rhodos we reported that Professor Lotz-Sisitka along with a group of researchers had undertaken a project for the Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA) which mapped African university responses to climate change across 12 countries. The next phase of the
SARUA climate change and development programme was to support universities to develop research networks across seven thematic areas which form the basis of the knowledge co-production framework. A Curriculum Innovation Network has been launched in the Southern African Region and a regional Masters degree in climate change and sustainable development is in the pipeline, with Lotz-Sisitka on the curriculum advisory working group. Watch this space for further updates.