Climate change and environmental degradation are among the greatest threats to human health.
Young activists have been very effective in drawing global attention to the crisis.
However, children from the Global South are often under-represented (sometimes deliberately) in the dialogue.
In The Gambia, in West Africa, the impacts of climate change are already being felt directly by the population, and this will worsen in the years to come.
There is strong government and community commitment to adapt to these challenges, as evidenced by the fact that The Gambia is currently the only country on track to meet the Paris Agreement according to Nationally Determined Contributions , but again, children’s voices are often missing – when their views could provide valuable additional information.
Here we describe a “Climate Change Solutions Festival” that targeted and engaged schoolchildren aged 13-18, and is to our knowledge, the first peer-to-peer (and student-professional) learning festival on climate change solutions for students in The Gambia. The event provided a unique insight into perceived climate change problems and scalable, affordable and sometimes very creative solutions that could be implemented in the region.
The logistical and practical methods of running the festival are shared, along with details of any solutions demonstrated in sufficient detail to be duplicated. We also conducted a narrative review of the most popular stands to explore the scientific basis for these solutions and discuss them in a global context. Overall, we see extremely strong grassroots and student engagement in The Gambia and clear evidence of learning about climate change and the impacts of environmental degradation more broadly. Nonetheless, we believe that to implement these proposed local solutions, further steps to assess acceptability of adoption, feasibility within communities, cost-benefit analyses, and ability to scale solutions are needed. This could be the focus of future experiential learning activities with students and partner partners.
Moreover, access to school children in many parts of the world, including The Gambia, presents its own challenges. The world’s population has become increasingly connected, however, social media, email and internet access to connect and communicate remains scarce in many regions and/or among certain social groups, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. rural, which adds to the logistical difficulties of this undertaking.
In order to encourage young people’s civic engagement, influences from the home and school environment have been shown to be important.
By exposing students to ideas, issues, and solutions to climate change, it is possible to focus and raise awareness of the issues, encourage discussion, and allow students to lead the conversation. Interactive and peer-to-peer learning methods have proven effective in conveying an educational message and being both engaging and motivating.
Here we present an interactive, peer-to-peer (and student-to-professional) “Climate Change Solutions Festival”, targeting schoolchildren aged 13-18 across the country. This work was informed by a previous public engagement activity in January 2020 at Bakau Newtown Primary School, Fajara, The Gambia, which provided insight into pupils’ perceptions of climate change and ideas on how to mitigate/adapt to climate change. During this preliminary work, there was a keen interest in the subject, and a desire to share knowledge. So we leveraged that experience with a bigger national festival. The aim of the festival was to learn with and from school-aged children, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other actors across The Gambia about the existing impacts of climate change and adaptation solutions /mitigation, encourage young people to engage in climate and health sciences and stimulate discussion between young people and other delegates to consider priorities related to climate change.