The Milestone in SADC

Victoria Akindele
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Education has significant benefits to human development along with its benefits to other sectors. Beyond increased general knowledge, an educated population is better equipped to address issues affecting a region, such as industrial development and poverty eradication.

Since the 1960s, enrolment rates in education throughout Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) have increased at all levels, from primary through to tertiary and postgraduate. 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.

Over the last 50 years, enrolment in education has increased at every level for both Genders within the SADC region. From 1960 up till now, enrolment rates in primary education have increased with female enrolment increasing slightly faster. The region consistently outperforms sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, though it still trails other regions of the world, with tertiary enrolment rates. Spending on education approaches that of high-income economies and is well above the amount spent by developing countries and regions on average. Despite these improvements, SADC is unlikely to attain the current global average of 30% tertiary participation within the next decade.

Going to school and completing a basic education had long been out of reach for far too many children in Southern Africa. Only in recent years, thanks to fundamental shifts in national policies and assistance from development partners, the situation has been steadily improving. Today, an increasing number of children are enrolled in school, and a higher number than ever before is completing a cycle of primary school education.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is a Regional Economic Community comprising 16 Member States; Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa,  Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Established in 1992, SADC is committed to Regional Integration and poverty eradication within Southern Africa through economic development and ensuring peace and security of which education is significant.

South Africa’s deficient education system is said to be the single greatest obstacle to socio-economic advancement, replicating rather than reversing patterns of unemployment, poverty, and inequality, and effectively denying the majority of young people the chance of a middle-class life.

Although, positive outcomes include the fact that pre-school enrolment has soared by 270.4% since 2000, setting a much better basis for future school throughput, that the proportion of people aged 20 or older with no schooling has fallen from 13% in 1995 to 4.8% in 2016, and that the proportion of matric candidates receiving a bachelor’s pass has increased from 20.1% in 2008 to 28.7% last year.

Also, higher education participation rates (the proportion of 20–24 year olds enrolled in higher education) have risen from 15.4% in 2002 to 18.6% in 2015, with university enrolment numbers climbing 289.5% since 1985 and more than 100% since 1995.

Likewise the unemployment rate for tertiary qualified professionals has increased from 7.7% in 2008 to 13,2% today.

But CRA director, Frans Conje reported that a new approach to schooling is urgently needed and should focus on achieving much higher levels of parental involvement and control, rather than bureaucratic control. He said quality education or the lack thereof is the primary indicator that determines the living standards trajectory of a young South African.

Education in Botswana is free, but it is not compulsory. The Ministry of Education has authority over all of Botswana’s educational structure except the University of Botswana. The educational structure mirrors that of the United Kingdom and there is universal access to primary and junior secondary school, but a process of academic selectivity reduces entrance to the senior secondary school and the university. However, educational curricula incorporate prevocational preparation in the junior and senior secondary schools.

Primary education is the most important stage in the educational system, and the government strives to make this level of education accessible to everyone. One central objective of primary education is for children to be literate first in Setswana and then in English.

The Ministry of Education expanded from a small unit of government in 1966 to one that looks after the educational needs of hundreds of thousands students from primary to tertiary levels. In addition, the ministry writes all required textbooks. The ministry’s emphasis is on training qualified teachers, developing a diversified curriculum, and expanding facilities to meet the national commitment of universal education. Also, education in Botswana has been given priority in the national budget.

Eswatini, another SADC member launched a new curriculum framework with the support of the EU in July which will be piloted and grounded in Eswatini schools beginning 2019.

So also Lesotho has made significant progress in its efforts towards Education for All by introducing Free Primary Education from 2000 through 2006, which was then reinforced to Free and Compulsory Primary Education by law in 2010. The net enrollment ratio in lower basic education has shown increase between 2000 till now, and the gross enrollment ratio in grade 1 was 98% in 2014.

Furthermore, the government engages in tangible efforts towards financing its system. The education sector is allocated 23.3% of the government’s recurrent budget on average, which corresponds to 9.2% of the national GDP.

In spite of these achievements, given the magnitude and complexity of educational development, a number of problems continue to exist. Some of these problems are reviewed, as are various recommendations for change.


The Education and Skills Development Sector in the SADC region faces challenges common to many countries around the world including 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 ;

Loss of educated and skilled personnel arising from the “brain drain”; and

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.

It is therefore an imperative, and only proper, that this matter deserves the highest attention by the respective governments in SADC. Strong recommendations are needed in attempts to begin to address this problem. However, this is not a process which can be dealt with overnight.

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Although many SADC countries allocate the highest percentage of their budgets to education, this sector is not showing the desired results.

Botswana as the home of the SADC secretariat, and an upper‐middle income country, can take the lead to implementing necessary changes in the education sector. The entire region needs to recognise the importance for future growth and economic success of their countries. Education needs to be made attractive and relevant, and school‐leavers and graduates prepared to take their place in the economies of their respective countries. The opportunities await, but the world does not.

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