Scaling up MDGs Awareness at Institutions of Higher Learning

Dec 13, 2013

A group of university students brainstorming on the steps needed to reach a particular MDG target and the obstacles that might need to be addressed.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has scaled up awareness and ownership of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), holding dissemination seminars among students at institutions of higher learning in Zambia. This initiative is part of ongoing efforts to ensure that all sectors of the country are fully engaged in accelerating progress on some MDG targets in the country.

Events to raise awareness and promote action towards achieving the MDGs were recently held among more than 200 undergraduate students from the University of Zambia taking a UNDP-sponsored Human Development course. They were joined by students from other tertiary institutions in the Lusaka area. Earlier in the year, UNDP held similar event at two key universities in the Central and Copperbelt Provinces.

Zambia has made encouraging progress on many of the MDG targets including gains made for HIV and TB prevalence, underweight children, access to ARVs, and gender parity in primary school enrolment and young adult literacy. However, the country is still confronted by challenges that slow the overall pace of implementation.

The country’s 2013 MDGs Report shows a slow decrease in extreme poverty with a decline from 58 percent in 1991 to 42 percent in 2010. The Report recommends that significant reform and investment are needed to meet this MDG goal of 29 percent by 2015.

Dissemination seminars at institutions of higher learning in Zambia are being held with the aim of equipping students to develop a better understanding of the MDGs and to promote MDGs related research. The initiative also serves as a tool to assess students’ awareness of the MDGs and subsequently identify how their knowledge levels can be boosted.

The seminars also provided a platform to engage on the Human Development paradigm. UNDP has over the years engaged university students and faculty in promoting this concept which comprise of analyzing access, opportunities and livelihoods of people. UNDP Country Director, Viola Morgan encouraged students to continue to discuss development issues through the lens of human development, pointing to the interrelationship between the two areas of focus.

The views of university students on the attainment of the MDGs in Zambia were one of unanimity. They said raising awareness on the eight goals is a task that is not confined to one stakeholder but rather requires that everyone gets involved in the process.

Kanondo Nanamana, a four-year female student reading Development Studies at the University Zambia said the initiative by UNDP manifests an initial step towards achieving the MDGs, adding that this course of action will enable students to comprehend how crucial it is for them to be aware of the Millennium Development Goals and help work towards its attainment.  

Another student, Habunya Mwiinga thinks public participation is an indispensable ingredient in constructing the social, political and economic frameworks that will support the attainment of MDGs in Zambia. This, he said, can only be achieved through mobilization and enlightenment activities.

The format of the seminars enabled deepened discussions and debates. For instance, at the University of Zambia, students were divided into eight groups representing each of the MDGs. Each group identified the steps needed to reach its particular goal and the obstacles that might need to be addressed.

The group which dealt with MDG One regarded the eradication of poverty as the most important goal of human development. The group believes that extreme poverty which is tied to unemployment and growing inequalities seriously threatens the proper implementation of MDGS in the country. To help solve this problem, the group wants the government and its partner to tackle poverty head on and provide a robust and efficient framework for addressing the lingering problems of the economy. 

Earlier brainstorming sessions held at other universities drew out lists of possible actions that might be taken individually or collectively to advance the MDG agenda in Zambia. Prominent among suggestions is the empowerment of women which outcome they think could lead to a reduction in child mortality or a reduction in the spread of HIV/AIDS.