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  • Open and Distance Learning Capacity-Building Project

    Background of the Programme

    The Capacity Building in Open and Distance Learning Project implementation started in 2008 with financial support from the African Development Bank. The Project was conceived after recognising that over the previous 20 years, the SADC Region faced major development challenges as measured by the 2005 UNDP Human Development Report. The report cited 18 countries with a declining HDI, nine of which were SADC Member States. This decline in SADC development was a result of a complex set of internal and external factors that interacted to constrain the potential of the Region and its people, to sustain and improve their lives. The diversity of the SADC Region presented additional challenges, particularly in relation to regional integration, for example Mauritius was ranked 65th in the HDI, whereas nine of the remaining 14 SADC Member States were ranked between 140th and 167th.

    SADC Secretariat also noted that there were serious challenges at all levels of education as the Region was struggling to achieve its Education for All (EFA) targets. Only 68% of primary aged children had access to the final primary grade and only about 20% of children completed secondary education across the SADC. At the higher education level less than 5% of the eligible age group went on to tertiary education. A quarter of the adult population remained illiterate and there were serious shortages of trained teachers at all levels.

    The Project therefore was conceived with an aim of facilitating the Region's education systems and institutions to work together more effectively and efficiently through better co-ordinated networks and institutional practices, both within and across the Member States in order for them to become more open, more innovative, more flexible and more deeply integrated. This Project is consequently fundamentally concerned with supporting capacity building in Open and Distance Learning (ODL) towards its more effective deployment across the Region.

    In the context of this Project, ODL is defined as a set of teaching and learning strategies (or education methods) that can be used to overcome spatial and temporal separation between educators and learners. Open learning is about improving educational accessibility and quality through the application of appropriate policies, structures, methods, programmes and Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) to support learning – such as video, audio and the newer computer technologies.

    The Project therefore lays foundations for new practices and new ways of providing education in order to improve its accessibility, equity, relevance and quality. In order to do this, the SADC Secretariat, and its Member States in collaboration with the African Development Bank, agreed that the Project should generate a SADC Regional ODL Policy and Regional ODL Strategic Plan which will help to re-vitalise education structures in the Region. It is anticipated that the Project has to support capacity building in both the strategic and technical management of Open and Distance Learning programmes for SADC citizens.