Southern African Development Community -Open and Distance Learning & Higher education Project


  • Reference: P-Z1-IA0-011
  • Appraisal Date: 17/02/2014
  • Board Presentation: 07/04/2014
  • Status: PipelinePIPE
  • Location: Southern Africa Region


The project will focus on building regional and national capacity for ODL at TVET and Higher education levels and fostering regional integration and cooperation in the area. The expected outputs of the project will be achieved through three components:

1. Capacity building 2. Networking and information sharing 3. Project Management.

Component 1: Capacity Building

(i) Developing research capacity

Effective deployment of distance education methods to support attainment of regional and national development goals needs to be informed by accurate information about the needs of learners and the broader societies of which they are part. The sector analysis in the 2013 Project Identification Report reveals gaps in the knowledge required to make prudent decisions about the how to deploy of ODL in these two subsectors of education to increase enrolments without heavily increasing the already overburdened education capital expenditure. There is also inadequate information on the best use of ICT and on how to incorporate climate change issues in Higher education in the region. Education systems across the Region will benefit from capacity strengthening in these areas. These gaps in turn suggest capacity problems in undertaking the necessary ongoing research and evaluation, within countries and across the Region to inform decision-making.

In order to harness ODL to best effect, it is essential to develop a detailed understanding of the educational needs, priorities and available resources in every SADC country in these subsector issues, as well as of the current status of ODL practice and the systemic and institutional capacity to support this practice at TVET and Higher education. This understanding will facilitate identification of strengths that can be used as building blocks, as well as weaknesses in the education systems that must be resolved before ODL initiatives can be successful. This strand will therefore focus on developing insight into the key educational needs within SADC and the capacity of distance education institutions to respond to these needs. It will serve to ensure that decision-makers and educational planners have access to better information on:

Key educational needs across the Region and within individual countries based on accurate educational management data;


Although the SADC Region has improved its human capabilities over the recent years, the education sector still faces a number of challenges. Among these are: huge numbers of students needing access to quality education, inequitable access, especially for disadvantaged groups such as women and disabled people and the rural people; inadequate access to high-level training and mismatch between supply of, and demand for, skilled labour; non-comparable standards and qualifications across the region and within the Member States; shortage of critical skills in key areas of development vital for higher productivity and competitiveness; the cost of education and required infrastructure; insufficient educated and skilled personnel due to the "brain drain"; the impact of HIV and AIDS on the entire education sector; the need for the education system to prepare students for self-employment through provision of relevant technical and entrepreneurial skills. As part of the process of finding solutions to these challenges, many countries in the region have made an effort to harness the potential of Open and Distance Learning (ODL).

SADC countries have a long history in the use of distance education and educational technologies. There are many success stories in the Region, for example the Malawi Colelge of Distance education, the Botswana College for Open and Distance Learning and the Namibian College of Open Learning, which have already demonstrated the potential for using distance education to expand access to schooling. Similarly, there is a long and notable history of use of Interactive Radio Instruction in Malawi, Swaziland and Zambia, particularly to support primary education. The Region also boasts one of the oldest and largest distance education institutions in higher education, the University of South Africa, and new open universities have been developed during the past twenty years in Southern Africa (Tanzania and Zimbabwe). ODL is increasingly seen as a viable option to provide educational access to those students who, for a wide range of reasons that are systemic and personal, would not pursue conventional, full-time contact education. In addition, there is international consensus on the importance of striving to achieve Education for All (EFA) by 2015 and beyond. Higher completion rates at the primary level impact on all levels within the sector, increasing demand for access to quality affordable education.

While distance education is not a panacea, it does offer a range of opportunities that can be used to enhance the education sector within SADC. The establishment of the African Union and the initiatives like NEPAD have focused attention on African states working together for common solutions and enhanced cooperation. A well planned, coordinated capacity-building and regional integration programme, which results in more effective and efficient use of distance education methods, could significantly help to maintain and improve the quality and mobility of labour in the Region and thereby improve economic productivity and competitiveness to the benefit of both the Region and the citizens of SADC. SADC has a critical role to play in strengthening these collaborative structures and helping the region address its challenges.


The project will produce a well-planned, coordinated capacity-building and regional integration project, which results in more effective and efficient use of distance education methods in the entire education system, thus maintaining and improving the quality and mobility of labour in the Region. This can improve economic productivity and competitiveness to the benefit of both the Region and the citizens of SADC. The project will further strengthen the successes achieved in ODL in the Region, while ensuring the sustainability and effectiveness of those initiatives whose size makes operation in isolation a difficult long-term prospect. Through the project, countries within the SADC Region will be capacitated to undertake ongoing needs analysis in the area of ODL in TVET and Higher education, and through this process will complete a comprehensive needs and capacity analysis to enable decision-makers to establish exactly where and how they can most successfully harness distance education methods to best solve or mitigate the educational problems of their countries. It will also provide decision makers on the best approached for the use of ICT in higher education and ensure the production and availability of qualified experts in climate change thereby facilitating the generation of sustainable grown through paying attention to climate change issues in development.

The primary beneficiaries of this project will be those learners participating in and deriving educational benefit from TVET and Higher education ODL programmes in the Region. Working with regional partners, the project will support ODL programmes that have a direct, explicit focus on responding to the development priorities of member states. This is an effective way of ensuring that project investments benefit the primary beneficiaries.

The secondary beneficiaries will be those people responsible for designing and implementing ODL in the Region. This group of beneficiaries can be disaggregated as follows:

Decision-makers in national (Ministries) and decentralised (where applicable) government structures, who set policy frameworks within which ODL programmes operate;

Institutional decision-makers, who are responsible for setting strategic direction regarding the use of distance education methods in educational programmes;

Education practitioners, including ' but not limited to ' course and programme planners and managers, materials developers, content experts, lecturers and tutors, and administrators;

Employers as they will be availed with pools of qualified TVET and Higher education graduates that have a high acumen to climate and green growth; and

Development partners agencies operating in the SADC Region who are working to support the aim of regional integration and human and economic development.

Additional secondary beneficiaries of this project will be those people working within national and regional networks and associations, whose primary focus is to foster collaboration and to try to build regional or national capacity to apply appropriate ODL methodologies. A key focus of this project will be on strengthening the institutional and personal capacity of these people to enable them to discharge their responsibilities more effectively and sustainably.

The SADC Secretariat, specifically the Directorate of Social and Human Development and Special Programmes, will also be a secondary beneficiary of this project. The project will assist SADC in achieving its vision of creating an educated and highly skilled society that will support economic development, alleviate poverty, and enhance the standard and quality of life of communities.

Key contacts

KUNENE Benedict Vusi Boy - OSHD2

Estimated Cost

UAC 15,000,000