22.06.2017 - UNESCO Office in Harare

Joint Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Education and Training and Science, Technology and Innovation underway in Swaziland

Education and training and science, technology and innovation are at the center of the meeting. © Higher Life Foundation

The joint meeting of SADC Ministers responsible for Education and Training, and Science, Technology and Innovation is currently underway in Swaziland. The meeting which started on 19th June 2017 will end on 23rd June 2017.

Senior officials from SADC Member States, representatives from the SADC Secretariat, United Nations agencies and civil society representatives are also attending the meeting.

In a speech read on his behalf by the Senior Science Programme Specialist, Dr Peggy Oti-Boateng,  UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa Director, Prof. Hubert Gijzen said the focus areas of this Ministerial meeting—lay at the heart of UNESCO’s mandate, and provide the foundations for the successful implementation of the 2030 and 2063 Agendas.

He said Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) present the most ambitious and comprehensive commitment the international community has ever made to end extreme poverty; fight inequality and injustice; and protect our planet.

Professor Gijzen mentioned that UNESCO leads and coordinate the implementation of SDG4 which focusses on ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

The Director shared some initiatives UNESCO is undertaking in the SADC region.  He reminded the member countries of the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) Ministerial Commitment on accelerating access to comprehensive sexuality education and health services for adolescents and young people saying UNESCO will continue supporting SADC countries to accelerate efforts towards the 2020 ESA targets.

In that regard, he announced that, in cooperation with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), UNESCO will soon launch a US$10 million programme to support increased coverage and access to age-appropriate, scientifically accurate, inclusive, comprehensive reproductive health education for all in and out of school girls and boys.  UNESCO will work with countries to promote and invest in programmes that keep children in school, particularly girls in rural and poor communities, and ensure that schools are safe and equitable places for learning.

Turning to science, technology and innovation, Prof. Gijzen said the role of STI today must go beyond building strong resilient economies to addressing the big questions of eradicating poverty, enhancing food security; promoting sustainable energy; managing water and environmental resources; controlling diseases; mitigating natural and man-induced disasters; and fostering sustainable cities.

He said development of joint regional programmes in areas such as renewable energy, or the USD 40 million UNESCO-SADC integrated water resources management initiative (SADC-WIN) were good examples of UNESCO’s commitment to solving key challenges in the region.  SADC-WIN seeks to build resilience to extreme hydrological events in the region as a way to build water security - which affects food and energy security, and livelihoods of communities. This requires a long term vision and clear strategy that puts STI at its core.

The Director emphasized that it is high time Africa’s full potential is unleashed by investing in education and STI with the aim to eradicate poverty, and to push the rich natural resources of the continent higher up in the value chain, thus generating economic growth, jobs and prosperity for all people in SADC.

The meeting is expected to approve a Task Force to work on a Regional Framework on Teachers Standards and Competences. This is an important step towards raising the quality of teachers while promoting south - south exchanges.

The meeting also presents an extraordinary opportunity for UNESCO and SADC to cement their longstanding relationship.  The two are currently reviewing their cooperation and have embarked on the establishment of a new Framework Agreement for Cooperation and Joint Action Programme, which is expected to be signed this year.

For more information, please contact: p.oti-boateng(at)unesco.org

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