Climate change and education in Turkana, Kenya

What impact does climate change have on education, especially in areas which are vulnerable to climate disasters and extreme weather events? In this report, we explore the impact of climate change on schools and learning in Turkana County, Kenya, and consider how to engage learners and schools in building resilience to climate change in the future.

Communities in Kenya’s rural areas, especially pastoralists in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs), are amongst the most affected by climate change. ASAL areas are characterised by economic marginalisation with high poverty levels, significant gender disparities and vulnerability to climate disasters caused by extreme weather. In this study, we consider Turkana County as an example of one of the country’s ASAL areas and examine the connections between climate change and learning. We consider not only the impacts of climate change on schools, but also the ways in which school systems can become more resilient to climate change, and even act as hubs for mobilising community-wide change and learning.   

Through a series of interviews and focus group discussions, we asked learners, out-of-school youth, community members, teachers and headteachers about the impacts of climate change on their lives. We found that the direct and indirect impacts of climate change on education are wide-ranging and complex, causing perceived learning loss and disruption to schooling. Indirect impacts ranged from reduced school attendance in the face of conflict due to water shortages, to crop failures resulting in hungry children struggling to concentrate at school.  

We also sought to identify key areas for intervention. Participants’ suggestions included improving school feeding programmes and establishing boarding facilities to mitigate the impacts of climate change on school attendance and students’ ability to learn. Other adaptive actions included setting up contingency funds to ensure schools are repaired quickly in the event of damage due to climate events, and improvement of school infrastructure to minimise the likelihood of damage. Remote learning options are also considered as an important potential adaptive action to ensure learning can continue when schools are forced to close. 

The report also identifies the different ways in which education for climate change can be improved, from reforming the climate change curriculum to provide a rounded picture of the causes of climate change (alongside locally relevant information), to using schools as hubs for change and learning within communities.