Field Stories

Lessons learned from SADC’s open and distance learning project

With a geographic base in nine southern African countries, financial underpinnings of about fifteen million Units of Account (1 UA = 1 US$1.48) from the African Development Fund, and a mature development strategy, the Open and Distance Learning Project launched by the Southern African Development Organization (SADC) secretariat in 2007 provides a paradigm for how a large-scale capacity-building effort should come into being. The project members are Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Madagascar, nominally a member, too, has been suspended from the SADC due to political uncertainties and is currently not actively involved. At eLA, Project Advisor Professor Richard Siaciwena from Botswana will provide up-to-date information on the project and put the entire process of development forward for discussion.

From a mere strategy to implementation: The development of practical technical skills and the enhancement of Open and Distance Learning Knowledge (ODL) lie at the heart of Richard Siaciwena’s presentation at eLA 2010 in Lusaka. The project manager of the SADC’s Open and Distance Learning Project will depict what has been achieved so far and provide lessons for other Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in Africa. He will highlight the necessity of a multifaceted approach to capacity development in ODL, i.e. the provision of policy frameworks, short and long-term training, as well as the need to establish institutional structures to provide a focal point for activities and collaboration.

[callout title=SADC in Brief]The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has existed since 1980, when it was formed as a loose alliance of nine majority-ruled states in southern Africa known as the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC). Its main aim at the time was coordinating development projects in order to lessen economic dependence on the then apartheid South Africa. The founding Member States were Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  The SADC vision is one of a common future within a regional community that will ensure economic well-being, promote the improvement of standards of living and quality of life, freedom and social justice, as well as help establish and maintain peace and security for the peoples of southern Africa. This shared vision is anchored in the common values and principles and the historical and cultural affinities that exist amongst the peoples of southern Africa.[/callout]

Commencing activities in 2007, his team has established two Centres of Specialisation (CoS): the Open University of Tanzania for teacher education and the Malawi College of Distance Education for secondary education. The team has also organised several informational events and excursions for 116 ODL practitioners. An assessment of the capacities of public ODL institutions to deliver their programmes was conducted in twelve Member States and an assessment of training needs of ODL practitioners in all the nine African Development Fund countries.

Although the final selection of the regional ODL institutions to offer long-term training and short-term training workshops is still under way, the core staff has already been constituted. Furthermore, key areas of ODL expertise on which emphasis will be placed, have been defined:

  • ODL curriculum planning and material development;
  • ODL financing, budgeting and costing;
  • Student support, assessment and accreditation in ODL;
  • eLearning;
  • ODL management, administration and marketing;
  • Quality Assurance in ODL;
  • Research skills in ODL application (including policy research);
  • Strategic planning and management of ODL;
  • Monitoring and evaluation in ODL.

The process of implementing a knowledge management system has just begun with the identification of a firm to develop it. At the moment, however, the team relies mainly on the SADC Secretariat website:

[callout title=A Short Definition of Open Learning]Open learning follows an educational philosophy that emphasises giving learners choices about media, place of study, pace of study, support mechanisms and entry and exit points.

Source: Commonwealth of Learning[/callout]

The project is closely linked to the SADC Centre for Distance Education (SADC – CDE), which is located in Botswana and supported jointly by the Government of the Republic of Botswana and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), especially in the area of ODL policy development.

Moreover, the team has worked with the African Council Distance Education (ACDE), the Distance Education and Teacher Education in Africa (DETA), and the Distance Education Association for Southern Africa (DEASA) in sponsoring ODL practitioners for conferences organised by these institutions.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *