interviews

“Most change that happens within us is prompted due to outside influences and I see education as a catalyst that can help us decide whether we change the way we do things or not” – Dr. Shepherd Urenje

Nov 30, 2021

“Shepherd Urenje, originally from Zimbabwe, now works for the Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development. His role involves working alongside colleagues within the University of Uppsala, helping to integrate Education for Sustainable development (ESD) into teacher training and education leading to meaningful social transformation.”

Dr. Shepherd Urenje, Programme Specialist in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)Dr. Shepherd Urenje, Programme Specialist in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)(SWEDESD). Facilitator of Work Package 2 on ESD in VAMOS.

For me, the important thing is to learn how to educate in a way to enable society to become sustainable in the future“, he explains.

“When I look at the world, I would describe it as globally dysfunctional. It is a world that does not function as well as it should. We are facing multiple challenges on many levels, from ecological, to societal and the economy. Climate change is right at the top and we are directly responsible for that.”

Dr Urenje admits his generation has been brought up in such a way as to be responsible for perpetuating ideas and ways of living that are not sustainable long term. In other words, we have not changed how we live and how we consume and that is what needs to be addressed.

“Our education has promoted this unsustainable situation so now we need to unlearn what we have been taught, and relearn the sustainable ways we have abandoned in the name of progress moving forward. How can we learn new ways that will help us out of this situation?

“ESD means an education that transforms the way we think, which leads into the way we act and what we do. Only in this way can we extract ourselves from our unsustainable life styles in terms ‘social transformation.’ How do we transform society from what it currently is to a future we all want, a sustainable one and one that will leave what we have for the next generation in a better state?  That should be the goal of education. And I continually ask myself how education can help transform the way society thinks and acts so we can prepare this earth for the future we want.”

Dr Urenje believes we are never too old to change our ways. Yes, it would be ideal to start really young to create the type of change we need, but the most important aspect is to prevent people from thinking in the same way they have done up till now which has led to the problems we are currently facing. 

“We want people to lead and design in a different way’, he explains. ‘And we are beginning to see many young people committed to change and doing it in an interesting and innovative way. They are demonstrating that they are thinking about how to do things differently.”

The VAMOS project brings diversity in terms of regionality, culture and countries. Dr Urenje recognizes that the EU and LATAM have many different issues at stake when it comes to sustainability and climate change and there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ type of solution. But the unifying force is the will to create a world conducive to life.

“These are complex multi-layered problems, which are contested and contextual.  They aren’t called WICKED problems for nothing. VAMOS brings together ideas from different countries and disciplines into one arena, which I will call a ‘learning-centred’ environment. It creates a space where everyone becomes a learner, including that space. That is what is exciting to me and that is what we should all be doing – providing opportunities for learning how to learn. And if we do this, then we don’t stop learning, and we are always searching for solutions. If this leads us to act, that would be brilliant.”

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