The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ministers responsible for Education and Training, Science, Technology and Innovation convened a virtual meeting on the 16th June 2021 chaired by the Republic of Mozambique.
The Ministerial Meeting was attended by SADC Ministers or their representatives from Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The meeting was chaired by the Honourable Minister Carmilita Rita Namashulua, Minister of Education and Human Development of the Republic of Mozambique. Hon. Namashulua delivered the official opening remarks and highlighted that the meeting would address key policy decisions, especially in the areas of education and training, science, technology and innovation, such as regional skills audit for establishment of the SADC University of Transformation; report on the mapping of regional centres of excellence and centres of specialisation; and education sector response to COVID-19 pandemic; among others.
SADC Deputy Executive Secretary Regional Integration, Dr Thembinkosi Mhlongo, in his welcome remarks, underscored that both the SADC Vision 2050 and Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030 position Education and Training, Science, Technology and Innovation as critical components of regional integration as outlined under Pillar 3 on Social and Human Capital Development and under Pillar 1 on Industrial Development and Market Integration.
He commended the Ministers for coming together to consider and approve key sectoral policy measures towards the realisation of the SADC Vision of “a peaceful, inclusive, competitive, middle to high income industrialised Region, where all citizens enjoy sustainable economic well-being, justice and freedom”.
Other speakers who delivered statements were Professor Sarah Anyang Agbor, African Union Commissioner for Human Resources Science and Technology; Mr Symerre Grey-Johnson, African Union development agency New Partnership for Africa’s Development NEPAD Director of Technical Cooperation and Programme Funding (DTCPF); Ms Stefania Giannini; Assistant Director General for Education, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO); and Mr Joshua Phoho Setipa, Managing Director, UN Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries
The Ministers noted the Report on the draft proposal on the Hosting of the Administrative Office of the SADC University of Transformation; approved the establishment of the proposed Technical Working Group and directed SADC Secretariat to operationalise the Technical Working Group and report progress at the next Joint Meeting of Ministers of Education and Training, Science, Technology and Innovation.
The Ministers noted the Report on SADC Member States Education Sector Response to COVID-19 which was conducted during the first phase of the pandemic which also included the sharing of best practices.
They directed the Secretariat to disseminate the Report to Member States to provide additional information and confirm data before publication and submission; and the Secretariat to conduct a follow up comprehensive study on COVID-19 to provide an update on the status of the impact of the pandemic on the education sector, including case studies on innovations conducted by Member States and reflect other policy measures such as ICT infrastructure and regulations.
They urged Member States to nominate national focal points to provide regular reports on COVID-19 responses and continue implementing and augmenting their COVID-19 measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 to minimise inequity and disruptions.
The Ministers further urged Member States to increase investment in the production of disaggregated data and promote a culture of data use at all levels to inform policy and requested UNESCO to extend its support for data capacity building initiatives and facilitate peer learning, sharing of best practices and exchange programmes to Member States and directed the Secretariat to provide a regional update on the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 targets and report progress by Member States.
They also urged Member States to provide the necessary resources to support the functioning of the existing and newly established national science academies in order to provide evidence-based science advice on matters of national and regional interest and directed the Secretariat to work closely with existing national, regional, continental and global networks of science academies and UN Agencies such as UN Technology Bank to support the Region with knowledge production and scientific evidence based policy advise towards implementation of the Revised RISDP 2020-2030, Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ (SIPO), Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (SISR) 2015-2063; SDG Agenda 2030, and African Union Agenda 2063.
The Ministers also approved the roadmap for the integration of Southern African Liberation History (SALH) and Global Citizenship Education (GCED) in Member States curriculum and requested UNESCO and other International Cooperating Partners (ICPs) to support the Regional Working Group and Member States in their endeavour to integrate SALH and GCED in their school curriculum.
They noted the findings and recommendations of the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Ministerial Commitment on Accelerating Access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Health Services for Adolescents and Young People Evaluation report and urged Member States to renew the ESA commitment during the upcoming International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa 2021 Conference in Durban and to facilitate its implementation.
They also further directed the SADC Secretariat to work with the UN agencies and other stakeholders to develop a new ESA Commitment Accelerating Access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Health Services for Adolescents and Young People that will consider the national contexts of Member States.