Sustainability Starts with Teachers: Capacity building programme for teacher educators on Education for Sustainable Development (CAP-ESD)

Dates of implementation
01/11/2018 - 31/12/2022
South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe
UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa


  • Build capacity and networking among educators to integrate Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into all areas and levels of education across Southern Africa.


‘Sustainability Starts with Teachers’ is an innovative UNESCO-led capacity-building programme for southern African teacher educators in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), Primary and Secondary Education, and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) from 11 countries, to respond to regional sustainable development concerns and opportunities, the Africa 2063 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Thus, the programme prepares future teachers for teaching sustainability across the curriculum, using a whole-school approach which involves the entire school community and facilities in sustainability practices.

Furthermore, to ensure that ESD is integrated at a policy and practice level, the programme will engage policy actors and educational leaders in the countries capacity-building activities as well as co-develop monitoring and evaluation tools to contribute to national and regional reporting on SDG 4, Target 4.7.


The project is comprised of three components that together aim to strengthen the capacity of the region’s current and future educators to integrate ESD into early childhood, primary, secondary and tertiary education contexts.

First, the project will mobilize a regional ESD Teacher Educators Network, comprised of experts able to advance the integration of ESD into teacher education programmes in their respective countries. The network will be supported by web-based communications and a knowledge-sharing platform.

Second, the project will utilize an action learning approach and previous Sustainability Starts with Teachers training materials to develop the content of a Regional Training Programme for teacher educators on ESD. Over the four-year project period, 192 teacher educators will variously participate through in-country workshops, a ten-day regional training workshop at Rhodes University and a regional policy dialogue workshop. Half of the participants will carry out ‘Change Projects’ to formally integrate ESD into their local education institutions.

Thirdly, the project will support the integration of ESD into teacher education policies and curricula and monitoring frameworks through policy dialogues.


‘Sustainability Starts with Teachers’ is an Action Learning Programme based on developing Change Projects with teacher educators and institutions, to support actual changes in programmes and practices towards sustainable development by integrating Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into teacher education.

Institution-based Change Projects can be self-defined change initiatives such as curriculum innovations, pedagogical innovations and whole-institution innovations.

Change Projects in teacher education can focus on teaching practice improvements, assessment, integration of culture and indigenous knowledge into curriculum, community engagement, and science and technology innovations for sustainability.
Thus, trough Teacher Education Change Projects, teacher educators and student teachers can learn valuable lessons which contribute to policy engagement and change, addressing global, regional and national sustainability challenges.

The role of Intangible Cultural Heritage

The project recognizes that safeguarding intangible cultural heritage through education is a cross-cutting issue, well aligned with the special emphasis on STEM and technical and vocational education and training (TVET). Intangible cultural heritage elements related to the domains of knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe are especially relevant to teaching sustainable development principles in ways that are culturally resonant with students. Thus, at least 48 of the 96 ARTP Change Projects will showcase the effective integration of ESD-related traditional or indigenous knowledge into local teacher education programmes.


  • Sustainability principles integrated into education and training environments.
  • Development of course materials and related resources.
  • A web platform to report on Change Projects, which will incorporate knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe.
  • ESD strengthened in national policies and curricula as well as monitoring and evaluation tools for SDG 4, Target 4.7.

The content of the projects and documents referenced in this platform do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO, including designations employed concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.