“Global issues” has been the geography topic for the term. Climate change, population growth, pollution and the use of plastics have been among the areas covered. The Millennium Development Goals were reviewed before we considered the Sustainable Development Goals that were adopted in 2015.
The list of seventeen goals was dutifully written down by the students, with the odd supplementary note as to what a goal might mean. Most of the list meant little to a Year 9 class in an English seaside town; they would probably mean little to most students in most schools. To express the wide aspirations they are intended to embody, the goals can appear abstract concepts. Goals such as “clean water and sanitation” and “quality education” can lack concrete reality when people have not known anything else.
After a visit to Rwanda some years ago, I made my own top ten list of things that might make a difference to ordinary people in poor communities. The ten were:
(i) Concrete walls and floors so as to be able to try to stay dry in the wet season.
(ii) Glass in the windows, or at least mosquito screens, to try to reduce the constant threat of malaria.
(iii) A kitchen that was not dependent upon charcoal or firewood for cooking, making the house cleaner and healthier and helping avoid deforestation.
(iv) A mains water tap, so that water does not have to be fetched by the women and children from hundreds of metres, if not kilometres away
(v) A latrine in the garden, so as not to have to share with the neighbourhood
(vi) A tarmac road through the village, so that catching a bus or motor cycle taxi would be easier, and that markets for selling and buying would be easily reached
(vii) A school within a couple of kilometres, so that the children do not spend a third of their waking hours walking
(viii) Electricity to the village, if not to the house, so that there might be facilities in the community.
(ix) A village clinic that would provide education in hygiene and disease prevention, as well as providing primary health care and maternity facilities
(x) A garden in which to grow vegetables and fruit for good nutrition, and even some space for flowers because, when you are poor, things of beauty become even more important.
For a class to which abstract concepts may mean little, such simple ideas may be more meaningful.