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    Education has significant benefits to human development along with its benefits to other sectors. Beyond increased general knowledge; an educated population is better equipped to address issues affecting the region, such as industrial development and poverty eradication in Southern Africa.

    Since the 1960s, enrolment rates in education throughout Southern Africa have increased at all levels – primary through to tertiary and post-graduate. While these improvements are encouraging, the SADC region still falls behind international and continental averages. Yet, SADC remains committed to improving access to quality education in the region, as evidenced by its Protocol on Education and Training, established in 1997.

    The Protocol on Education and Training

    The Protocol on Education and Training, which came into force in July 2000, provides for several areas of cooperation among Member States:

    • Policy for education and training;
    • Basic education;
    • Intermediate education and training;
    • Higher education;
    • Distance education;
    • Training fund
    • Research and development;
    • Lifelong education and training; and
    • Publishing and library resources.

    In identifying these priorities, relevant and complementary regional and international initiatives were taken into account, so as to avoid duplication of policy and effort. In general terms, the Protocol on Education and Training seeks to promote a regionally integrated and harmonised educational system, especially with regard to issues pertaining to access, equity, relevance, and quality of education interventions.

    In order to implement the provisions of the Protocol on Education and Training, a Regional Implementation Plan on Education and Training 2007 to 2015  was developed to address these areas of cooperation. In addition to the areas of cooperation, the plan also includes other cross-cutting impediments to education in the region, such as HIV and AIDS.

    Implementing the Protocol

    The Protocol on Education and Training guides the SADC Education and Skills Development Programme which facilitates and coordinates the harmonisation and implementation of regional policies and programme to ensure access to relevant and quality education and training in the SADC region. This is expected to result in availability of educated and skilled human resource in order to contribute to poverty alleviation and regional integration.

    The key Functions of the programme are:

    • Coordinating the development and implementation of regional policies including Protocols, minimum standards and strategic frameworks on education and training;
    • Monitoring of regional, continental and international commitments on education and training;
    • Facilitation of exchange programmes, expertise and sharing of information and good practices on education and training-related issues in the SADC region; and
    • Coordinating and harmonising SADC position on international commitments.

    The Programme is also guided by the Regional Education and Training Implementation Plan 2007-2015, to provide particular strategies for fostering education and training. This plan is harmonised with the African Union Plan of Action for the Second Decade of Education for Africa 2006-2015; like the Protocol on Education and Training, it identifies seven priority areas which are being implemented in a progressive manner. These are:

    • Early Childhood Education and Care;
    • Gender and Culture;
    • Education Management Information Systems;
    • Teacher Education and Development;
    • Higher Education and Training;
    • Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET);
    • Curriculum Development including Teaching and Learning Materials
    • Quality Management; and
    • Cross- Cutting activities related to HIV and AIDS and Information Communication Technologies.

    The existing projects and initiatives under the programme are:

    • Open and Distance Learning Capacity-Building Project;
    • Quality Assurance and Regional Qualifications Framework; and
    • Centers of Specialisations and Centers of Excellence.

    The existing committees overseeing the Programme are:

    1. Committee of Ministers of Education and Training;
    2. Committee of Senior Officials; and
    3. Technical Committees:
      • Technical Committee on Accreditation and Certification;
      • Technical Committee on Education Management Information Systems;
      • Technical Committee on Open and Distance Learning; and
      • Technical Committee on Higher Education and Training, Research and Development.

    Status of Education

    Over the last 50 years, enrolment in education has increased at every level for both Genders within the SADC region. From 1960 to 2010, enrolment rates in primary education increased at an average annual rate of 1.5%, with female enrolment increasing slightly faster at 1.6 %. The region consistently outperforms sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, though it still trails other regions of the world, with tertiary enrolment rates of 6.3% in 2010. Spending on education approaches that of high-income economies and is well above the amount spent by developing countries and regions on average. Despite these improvements, SADC is unlikely to attain the current global average of 30% tertiary participation within the next decade. For future information, please refer to the Southern African Regional Universities Association website.

    The Education and Skills Development Sector in the SADC region faces challenges common to many countries around the world – ensuring access, equity, quality, efficiency, relevance and democracy in their educational and training policies. More specific challenges include the following:

    • The negative impact of the HIV and AIDS pandemic on the education and training sector;
    • Inequitable Access to education, especially affecting disadvantaged groups such as women, disabled people, and people from rural areas;
    • Limited access to High-level Training and a mismatch in supply and demand of skilled labour;
    • A lack of comparable Standards and Qualifications across all training institutions and countries;
    • A shortage of Critical Skills in key areas vital for higher productivity and competitiveness;
    • The high cost of Education or Training, especially in specialised fields such as medicine;
    • Loss of educated and skilled personnel arising from the “brain drain”; and
    • The need for the education system to prepare students for employment opportunities in both rural and urban areas through the provision of Relevant Technical, Vocational, Entrepreneurial, and Indigenous Skills.

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