In spite of the number of new public and private institutions which has been constructed over the past 20 years in Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, the region also face a lack of higher learning institutions.
Giving an answer to the extraordinary SADC Meeting of Ministers of Higher Education, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, pointed out the fact that the higher education system in the region was in fact not growing adequately in both size and capacity to meet up with the need for a growing population of youth.
The region does not possess a sufficient amount of academic personnel and the majority of of individuals within our systems do not currently have an adequate amount of training in both teaching and in research. Only 33% of South Africa academics possess PhD qualifications and depend primarily on them to produce research outputs and supervise Masters and Doctoral students, Mkhize explained; resulting in situation whereby countries are now struggling to produce a new generation of academics.
The meeting planned to develop a platform for all Ministers of Higher Education and Training throughout the region to reflect and share experiences regarding how they could speed up the revitalisation of higher education.
A few of the difficulties confronting the region include things like the failure to develop indigenous languages to ensure they are languages of scholarship and research; as well as not having the capacity to boost the facilities to the degree that is essential to be able to produce the right quantity and quality of graduates together with the essential skills necessary for the countries in the region.
Mkhize stated that to be able to tackle these challenges, financing was needed — the dilemma continued to be exactly where the money would come from.
She cautioned that in discussing funding, they should not be oblivious to the reality that they did not stretch the current pool of resources far enough in order to do more.
“Such a consideration should apply both to our individual countries and most importantly, in this meeting, to our region as a unit.”
South Africa’s financial commitment to foreign students in 2011 amounted to around R1.04 billion on students from the SADC region, and R735 761 000 for non-SADC students.
The current chairperson of the SADC Ministers of Education and Training – Vice Minister of Education of the Republic of Mozambique – , Professor Arlindo Chilundo, stated that promoting knowledge development and dissemination, specifically higher education, was the building block for attaining the regional integration and development agenda of SADC and eliminating poverty amongst the citizens of the region.
Echoing Mkhize’s sentiments, Chilunda mentioned that the SADC had a substantial concern with regards to higher education, particularly in the areas of access and participation by the population, where the region’s participation rate of 6.5% was beneath the global average of 30%.
“As a region, we will need to completely transform our strategy to higher education in a groundbreaking manner, and I am positive that this meeting will set the tone for the necessary revolutionary transformation of the landscape of our higher education.”
Chilunda added that new approaches for funding of higher education along with its infrastructure ought to be thoroughly investigated to remodel and develop higher education in the region. This would include putting in place the appropriate policies and mechanism to draw and promote the participation of the private sector and donors, in addition to making use of the growing utilization of information and communication technologies.