Windhoek - The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has identified two areas where SADC has to improve in order to ensure quality education in the region.
The two areas identified by UNESCO are school support, and alignment and accreditation of qualifications.
UNESCO sees the two areas as the missing link in the SADC education system, which if implemented could lead to the successful implementation of the SADC protocol on education and training development.
The SADC protocol on education and training development implores member states to work towards the reduction and eventual elimination of constraints to better and freer access by citizens of member states, to good quality education and training opportunities within the region.
In order to achieve the protocol, UNESCO says under the schools support area, the enrolment in and quality of primary and secondary education needs to be improved. The number of qualified teachers, teaching methods and career guidance, require attention. Consideration needs to be given to harnessing technology and the “flipped classroom” approach to reach the large numbers currently excluded from quality education.
Speaking at the meeting of ministers responsible for education and training, science, technology and innovation in Windhoek, Namibia last week, Professor Hubert Gijzen, regional director of the UNESCO regional office for Southern Africa reiterated the commitment of UNESCO to support the SADC member states in ensuring quality education from early childhood to adult education.
“As we know, quality education begins with teachers. Therefore, our strategy of focusing on teachers has led us from supporting member states to develop their national teacher professional standards and competences, to crafting the reference SADC Regional Framework for Professional Teacher Standards and Competencies, and more recently, to commissioning country studies to review continuous professional development (CPD) for teachers. We stand ready to support you further in developing a SADC Framework on CPD,” he said.
Gijzen also said they believe that the economic transformation in the region requires more attention to green skills.
The SADC Regional Environmental Education Programme is instrumental in developing training modules and in generating a critical mass of educators and change agents. With financial support of the Japanese and the Swedish governments, UNESCO are building on this rich SADC experience and are ready to partner with SADC as they start implementing new initiatives.
On the issue of harnessing Information Communication Technologies ICTs) for education, Gijzen says they have engaged with governments in developing innovative solutions in the classrooms.
He added that through the financial support of the Chinese and South Korean governments, UNESCO have been able to upgrade teachers and teacher colleges in the use of ICT in education, and the piloting of e-schools.
“Building on the success of these initiatives, we stand ready to support member states also in reaching the hard to reach, such as special needs schools and schools in remote areas, especially those that are off-grid. The strategy for this is laid down in the new concept programme entitled, ‘Renewable energy and ICTs for schools and communities’,” he said.
On the second area of recommendation, UNESCO sees the alignment of qualifications and development of accreditation standards as important for mobility in the region.
For this area of recommendation, Gijzen said he wished to recall the relevance of the Addis Ababa Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Certificates, Degrees, and Other Academic Qualifications in Higher Education in African States and remind of the importance of ratifying the convention in SADC countries.
“On the Eastern and Southern Africa Ministerial Commitment on accelerating access to comprehensive sexuality education and health services for adolescents and young people, we are pleased to see the progress made by the countries in successfully integrating CSE at national level. Early this year we launched a USD$50 million programme aimed at working with countries to invest in keeping children in school, particularly girls in rural and poor communities, and ensure that schools are safe and equitable places for learning,” he said.
Furthermore, Gijzen said it was high time for the continent to unleash Africa’s full potential – by investing in education, science, technology and innovation with the aim to eradicate poverty, and to push the rich natural, mineral, human and cultural resources of the continent higher up in the value chain, thus generating economic growth, jobs and prosperity for all people in SADC.