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SADC acts to revitalise tertiary education

Education

SADC acts to revitalise tertiary education

Gabi Khumalo

Plans are underway to source funding and revitalise higher education across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

This follows a critical report tabled by the Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA) at a two-day meeting of SADC ministers of higher education and training. Held in Joburg recently, the meeting established a technical committee to implement recommendations that came out of the discussions. The committee will plan a strategy to raise funds and organise a regional higher education donor conference.

The report looked at factors that hamper the development of higher education in the region. Recommendations in the report include the development of staff and students, increasing the number of doctoral graduates, increasing the research output and modernising the higher education system through Information Communication Technology infrastructure and more effective higher education planning.

 

Clear policy vision

The two-day meeting hosted by South Africa in July, was aimed at formulating a clear policy vision for higher education. Discussions revolved around the status and challenges of the sector based on the work that had been undertaken by SARUA.

SARUA was established to assist in the revitalisation and development of the leadership and institutions of higher education in the SADC region. Its goal is to en- able the regional higher education sector to meaningfully respond to the developmental challenges it faces.

Presenting the report, CEO of SARUA Piyushi Kotecha warned that without significant change, the SADC region would not achieve acceptable enrolment rates.

“Southern Africa has an enrolment rate of 6,3 per cent, which compares poorly with tertiary enrolment in other parts of the world. Higher education enrolment just managed to keep pace with population growth, apart from Mauritius and South Africa, where tertiary enrolment increased by 20 per cent and 15 per cent respectively over the last 20 years,” Kotecha said.

 

Zimbabwe

The report noted that while the SADC had spent more on education between 1990 and 2010 than any other region in the world this spending was very uneven with increased demand not being met by increased levels of funding.

Sharing his country’s experience, Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Senator Lutho Tapela said the country had made significant strides in creating opportunities for students striving to obtain higher education.

Zimbabwe, with a population of 12 million, is second in terms of literacy rates in Africa. “The University of Zimbabwe has established a stellar education programme through Indian government assistance. Over 15 colleges could at some point become institutions offering degrees after being mentored by well-equipped institutions.”’ Tapela said.

“We also offer bridging courses for students who don’t meet some higher education requirements to enter certain programmes. The technical and vocational training participation in higher education by the private sector is critical in national development”.

He added that Zimbabwe also participated in intergovernmental cooperation, taking part in exchange programmes where science teachers are trained in Namibia and doctors in Lesotho.

 

Funding

South Africa’s then Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize highlighted the need to explore new ways of funding education. Suggestions included graduate work schemes, which would allow graduates to repay their study fees after they had started working.

“We also need to examine differentiation of our higher education system to meet the different needs of our people,” Mkhize said.

“A differentiated system ranging from research universities of technology and technical and vocational education and training colleges, with diversified programmes, will go a long way in meeting the diverse educational aspirations of our communities.”

African Development Bank representative Frank Boahene warned that government could not do everything on its own and challenged parents and the private sector to assist.

“If you believe that education is the key then invest in your child’s education,” he said, adding that the private sector often complained that it did not get the skills it required.

African Development Bank representative Frank Boahene warned that government could not do everything on its own and challenged parents and the private sector to assist.

“If you believe that education is the key then invest in your child’s education,” he said, adding that the private sector often complained that it did not get the skills it required.

 

For more information, call the Department of Higher Education and Training Call Centre: 0800 872 222.