Most African people perceive learning about the environment and agriculture through books as boring because they believe these to be the teachings of "white men".
This is according to Edgar Neluvhalni, South African National Parks cultural heritage and indigenous knowledge manager.
Neluvhalni was presenting his research findings at the Environmental Education World Congress which began at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre in Durban yesterday.
The congress is exploring ways to incorporate indigenous knowledge into the curriculum of environmental education.
Neluvhalni's research shows that environmental knowledge is not unique to "white teachings".
"What I found was that indigenous precautions were there to treat diseases and prevent the spread of contagious illnesses," he said.
His research, Neluvhalni said, encouraged people to understand more about indigenous knowledge.
"We will be surprised to discover how indigenous knowledge can assist us in dealing with environmental challenges," he said.
Neluvhalni said that indigenous knowledge such as washing one's hands to prevent the spread of contagious disease should be promoted at school level.
"Education should not be made foreign, it is important for pupils to understand that what they are being taught is not foreign, but is knowledge that came from previous generations because, when knowledge is perceived to be foreign, learning can take a long time," he said.
The focus of the congress is on health, education, agriculture and the environment.
Political and other leaders are expected to discuss the effects of global climate change and other environmental changes on food security, water resources and health.
At the opening of the congress on Monday evening Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said that the congress had come at an opportune time. It was now that innovative ways needed to be found to respond to such environmental challenges as the belief that associated education was boring.