The word sustainability is used for almost everything today. So, we have a plethora of conferences and seminars on sustainability. Initially the term was used to denote environment and environmental degradation, and how sustainability can lead to the protection of the environment. But sustainability is a broad issue: it means development of all fronts which is holistic. So, sustainable issues are complex, they include education, poverty and eradication of it, equal resources for everyone, livelihoods and its continuation in the face of natural disasters or calamities. However, one feels that education is the fount of it all: once education is ensured then livelihood is sustainable, and once this is achieved there is a continuation to the quality of life. In other words, once a person starts earning he or she need not necessarily depend on natural environment for livelihood. True there will be people in remote regions, who will continue to depend on the environment for protection and sustenance, but the environment should remain as unprotected and virgin as possible because left to itself it has its own natural processes of ‘living’.
Education is the fount of livelihood because education promises a quality of life; education also takes people out of the rural areas to more developed and industrial settings to eke out a livelihood and earning. So, even a minimal education which may not have the trappings of degrees, or for that matter, diplomas can enable a person to earn and at the same time learn. In developing countries the issue is that of sustainable education leading to livelihood. At the same time, education is a continuous force and one can continue to learn and earn simultaneously.
Let us see what this can mean. Today literacy is basic computer knowledge and once a person is endowed with it then he or she is empowered to face challenges independently. This knowledge is a sustainable one, and helps people not only to acquire jobs, but also to be self reliant and independent in terms of taking action and decision making. Though in a very broad sense, this is education. Similarly, village community centres technologically equipped can help in educating people, and consolidate literacy.
Today education cannot be understood only in terms of degrees, it is basic and minimal education that is required if one has to take it to the grassroots. Education in turn will accelerate development in all fronts including economic development. The eradication of hunger and poverty is also dependent on education, to make people live in harmony with the surroundings and tap natural sources to earn a living.
For example, floods which are a continuous menace in countries like India have to be tackled by living intelligently during the season as floods cannot be combated on even a war footing. At best they can be contained by saving people and moving people to safer locales. But it is almost impossible to prevent them. What can be prevented is human loss, but once people learn to live intelligently with floods then they can sustain themselves, lead a normal life and not be in fear of losing their lives.
Another example is low cost bamboo housing, once people are educated on these lines and in areas where bamboo is grown then living in cost effective but endurable structures sustains life. In fact, it is not only cost effective it is almost free of any of tangible costs. Hence, for sustainable livelihood education to make people self taught and skilled is at the primal source of things. This in turn will unleash living and economic sustainability, personal growth and development.