The relevance and significance of education to human development has long been recognised. In addition to fostering general knowledge an educated population is better equipped to address the challenges facing the region including industrial development and poverty alleviation.
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 pertinence of education has also been extensively highlighted in the RISDP 2020-2030, with the delineation of the strategic goal geared towards ‘’increasing access to quality ad relevant education and skills development, including science and technology, for SADC Citizens’’ which is expected to lead to enhanced equitable access to quality and relevant education and enhanced skills development for industrialisation.
However, 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”;
- 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; and
- Last but not least, the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which has led to school closures and has seriously impacted on Member States ability to ensure learning never stops.
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.
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.
Since the ratification of the Protocol in 2000, there has been progress in various areas. These relate to the following:
- SADC Qualifications Framework: Progress has been made on the SADC Qualifications Framework (SADCQF), which facilitates the development of human resources and availability of educated and highly skilled personnel through comparable education and training systems. Most Member States have developed or are developing/revising their National Qualifications Frameworks (NQFs) to align with the regional framework. There has been steady progress in terms of alignment with 2 Member States having already aligned their NQFs to the SADCQF and a third Member State in the process of doing so.
- SADC Protocol on Education and Training: Interventions have included the treatment of SADC students as local students with respect to tuition, application, and examination fees in public universities in most Member States leading to: a proposal to introduce a regional visa for students, academics, researchers, and scientists; tax and customs exemptions in the region;
- SADC University of Transformation: The conceptualisation of the establishment of the SADC University of Transformation has already been approved and in 2021, a Technical Working Group to work on the Operationalisation of the SUT has been set up to expedite the process. In a similar vein, the Guidelines for the identification of Centres of Excellence and Centres of Specialisation have already been approved and it is expected that these will support the promulgation of research and innovation and the development of programmes of studies respectively, to be offered by the SUT.
- Teacher Training and Development: The SADC Teacher Standards and Competencies as well as the SADC CPD Framework for Teachers have been developed and approved and these will serve to professionalise the teaching industry;
- EMIS: The regional norms and standards for education management information Systems have been developed and Secretariat has produced a Report in 2021 on SADC Member States Progress towards the SDG4 Targets. The production of data is crucial since it fosters better policy prescriptions and Secretariat is presently working with the AU towards the harmonisation of a Continental EMIS Norms and Standards;
- Technical and Vocational Training: a TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) Nomenclature Framework and Strategy. Has been developed (2018-2027) and various initiatives related to green skills as well as the delineation of a new Monitoring and Evaluation Framework accompanying the Strategic Plan and Implementation Framework has been developed.
- Increasing access and reducing attrition rates in education systems: Several instruments were developed including the development of the SADC Policy Framework for Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL), which addresses barriers to teaching and learning by strengthening education systems and facilitating access to support services for vulnerable children and youth in schools. The SADC Open and Distance Learning Policy Framework was developed to promote technology advancement and virtual learning to increase access to quality and relevant education and training opportunities and to that end, the
- SADC Centre for Distance Learning has been established to promote teacher training in the area of ODL.
Committees overseeing the Education and Skills Development Key Result Area include:
- Committee of Ministers of Education and Training and Science, Technology and Innovation;
- Committee of Senior Officials; and
- 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