Addressing Community’s Environmental Concerns in Higher Institutions: A Focus on Wolaita Sodo University and its Surrounding Rural Community

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Addis Ababa University


Many conventional research and educational system have given less attention to the needs and priorities of local communities. Hence, the potential to integrate indigenous and modern practices in dealing with the contemporary environmental challenges have been minimum. Therefore, this study has assessed the extent to which local community’s environmental concerns are being addressed through the core missions of Wolaita Sodo University with respect to environmental education processes and practices. The study has employed personal interviews,questionnaire, focus group discussions, and observation in addition to using available documents. The target population of the study comprised 1842 households; and 128 academic staff and 503 third year regular undergraduate students of Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities and Faculty of Natural and Computational Sciences at Wolaita Sodo University. Both household and student respondents were selected using stratified random sampling on the basis of kebele, gender, and faculty; whereas sample instructors were selected using systematic sampling method. The study revealed that there are environmental issues, such as land degradation, soil erosion, water pollution, deforestation, and waste disposal problems whose cumulative effects are disastrous from both human and ecological perspectives. However, the intervention of the institution in this regard through the three core function areas of teaching, research, and community service has been very limited. This has been evidenced by the subordinate position being given to local environmental issues in the curricula and instruction, theory-based nature of environmental education, failure of academic staff and students to take part in the community-based environmental protection activities among others. The study has also identified both challenges and opportunities for strengthening community-university collaboration from the perspective of these two parties as well as other concerned stakeholders. Based on the findings of the study, adaptation of the curricula and instruction to suit local environmental context, provision of action-oriented environmental education at different settings, empowerment of the academic staff and the community groups; and strengthening community-university collaboration through optimizing the existing possibilities while overcoming its associated barriers are some of the major potential measures suggested so as to re-orient the existing higher education system in the study area towards the one which is more sensitive to the local community’s environmental concerns



Geography and Environmental Studies