CSOs pen SADC ministers on challenges affecting education

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) presented a five-point position paper to SADC Ministers of Education and Training and Science, Technology and Innovation (ET-STI), calling upon them to, among other things, address the issue of teacher education, training and deployment in the region.

The position paper followed a meeting the ministers had in the Malawian Capital, Lilongwe, from 13th to 17th June 2022 to, among others, follow up on the policy decisions made and the implementation of ongoing programs and initiatives in the ET-STI sector. Malawi’s Minister of Education, Agnes NyaLonje, chaired the meeting.

The SADC CSOs presented the position paper on Thursday, through the office of the Secretary for the Ministry of Education in Malawi, according to Benedicto Kondowe, convener of the CSOs engagement with the education ministers.

Later that day, some of the CSO leaders held a press conference, where they took turns to read out the five points and recommendations in the position paper, which has been endorsed by all CSOs in SADC member states.

“We, as CSOs working in the education sector, note that the achievement of SDG 4 and the transformation of education within the SADC region will depend heavily on teachers and education personnel from pre-school that are empowered, adequately recruited, well-trained, professionally qualified, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems.

Teachers, trainers and other education personnel are generally considered the single most influential variable in an education system for achieving learning outcomes. Based on our assessments in the region, currently teachers and education personnel are confronted by so many challenges, that need to be addressed,” the position paper reads in part.

The CSOs further say they have noted with great concern that some of these issues remain key to the attainment of quality, inclusive, equitable and sustainable education for all in the region. They demand an empowered education workforce, which is professionalized, trained, motivated and supported.

They have also asked the ministers to look into issues of digital learning and transformation, education care and support, financing education as a cross cutting issue and education and training protocol.

Kondowe, who is also the Executive Director for Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC), acknowledged that SADC member states are faced with so many challenges in as far as achieving those aspects is concerned.

“We are, therefore, appealing to member states to step up investment in education, especially looking at areas that are usually disadvantaged, including inclusive education, support for education in emergencies and training, recruitment and deployment of teachers.

Also, considering that technology is the currency in the 21st century, we are of the view that member states should develop appropriate frameworks to support integration of EduTech. Education technology has the potential to increase access. There is also the need to have mechanisms of making education available in times of crises, more especially when hit by cyclones, which are common in the SADC region,” Kondowe said.

Some of the CSO leaders at the press conference were: Jimmy Wilford from Students and Youth Working on Reproductive Health Action Team in Zimbabwe, Dr. Limbani Nsapato representing ANCEFA, Thokozani Phiri from Forum for African Women Educationalists in Malawi (FAWEMA) and Lexon Ndalama representing Save the Children.

Among many other important things, the SADC Ministers of Education in Lilongwe, are also reviewing the progress made on the implementation of the protocols on Science, Technology and Innovation and Education, respectively, which aims to foster cooperation and promote partnerships in the areas of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) and education in the region.

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