No Gender Equality in Education [column] (allAfrica.com)

Most countries place a great deal of emphasis on the achievement of equality. Strategies to achieve greater regional and racial equity commonly included efforts to equalise pupil-teacher ratios. In South Africa, the 1960s saw the apartheid state exert pressure and control over the majority of the black population, and impose poor quality, Bantu education in order to further the goals of white supremacy and domination, so there was also a broad commitment to redress these issues here.

In the majority of countries in the subregion, males had greater access to schools than their female counterparts. In Botswana, gender parity was partly achieved, while in Lesotho and Swaziland, girls had greater access to education compared to the pre-independence era. Strategies to achieve greater gender equity took a variety of forms. Many countries in the region had specially-constituted gender programmes to deal with gender issues across a range of areas including access to, and the content of, education.

Decentralisation was seen as a common strategy to achieve greater management and administrative efficiency, and to cut costs. Zambia’s decentralisation of education boards, for example, was a central plank of new policy (Haddad & Demsky, 1995). In Tanzania, decentralisation was piloted in selected areas with the help of NGOs working with the World Bank. Decentralisation in South Africa had entailed the determination of financial limits, with norms and standards at the centre. Implementation at the provincial level was introduced in many provinces, and school governing bodies were accorded greater autonomy and independence.

Capacity-building initiatives that were crucial to the success of decentralisation efforts accompanied these developments, but they required resources. It was generally felt that budget cuts to education constituted taking steps backward, thus subverting the entire exercise as no capacity development was taking place.

Yet all countries in the region were eager to make education more relevant to economic growth and social change. The argument was that, in order to become competitive in the world market, education needed to be reformed so as to take into account the country’s economic needs. As a result, some countries were seen to be in the process of establishing and sustaining technical and vocational education. In addition, education for industry, education for self-employment or entrepreneurial education had become a new dimension of nonformal curricula. However, the above emphasis was not common to all countries such that common and agreed education policies and strategies were emphasised (Adedeji, 1995).

Consequently, a comprehensive framework was required that would ensure that the development of the education sector would be founded and hinged on principles and objectives that would support and accommodate the development endeavours of the entire region.

The Windhoek Treaty provided for SADC to conclude a series of protocols to give practical effect to the sectorial goals. The protocols were to define the principles, objectives, scope, and institutional frameworks for the purpose of cooperation and for achieving the desired integration. The processes of preparing and negotiating the protocols were to be coordinated by the Sector Coordinating Units. Each protocol would then become an integral part of the treaty after its approval at the SADC summit.

SADC-PET

The SADC Protocol on Education and Training was first signed in 1997 by member-states who were facing critical developmental challenges with respect to industrialisation, integration and harmonisation, alleviation of poverty and income inequality, human rights, gender imbalance, and high unemployment rates, among others.

In light of the aforementioned challenges throughout the SADC region, there needed to be a full commitment to SADC-PET for the much-needed development of an African knowledge-based society.

Furthermore, the protocol seeks to promote regional cooperation in the development of integrated and harmonised education policies and strategies, particularly with regard to widening access, equity in provision, and improving the relevance and quality of education programmes. Priority areas identified for cooperation included the following (SADC-PET, 1997): improvement and alignment of curricula at the basic, secondary, and tertiary levels of education; eradication of illiteracy and the provision of universal basic education;

development and production of widely available textbooks and other teaching and learning materials;

harmonisation of entry requirements and examinations across educational institutions.

The protocol further aims to promote regional cooperation in the development of science, technology, vocational education, higher education reform, adult and lifelong education, and the development of publishing, library, and resource-centre services.

Dr. David Namwandi is a PhD holder in Business Administration from Asia e University, Malaysia. He is a Founder of IUM and former Minister of Education, Republic of Namibia.