Fostering Teacher Capacity for Effective Learning in Southern Africa

The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. A successful education reform is therefore mainly about enabling and encouraging teachers to perform optimally in the classroom, be more conscientious and motivated and eager to seek professional development on a regular basis. It becomes necessary in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals, for teachers to equip themselves well to handle the emerging challenges of diversity, first generation learners and multilingual contexts in the classroom, juxtaposed with new curricular demands.

Teachers have a pre-eminent role in the provision of quality education and this is recognized by both the Dakar Framework for Action (World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal in 2000) and the Kigali Statement (Regional Ministerial Conference in Kigali, Rwanda 2015).

Regional interventions

UNESCO’s teacher work in the region focuses on following up on the recommendations deriving from three previous Regional Teacher meetings in 2015 and 2016 (held in Maputo, Lusaka and Harare respectively), as well as a directive of the SADC meeting of Ministers responsible for Education and Training, Science, Technology and Innovation.

In the meeting of Ministers held on 30 July, 2016 in Gaborone, Botswana, the SADC Ministers directed the SADC secretariat to facilitate (1) a study on the situation of teachers including the feasibility of establishing a Regional Council of Teachers; and (2) the development of a comprehensive Regional Policy Framework for Teachers and for Teacher Training. In order to operationalize this directive of the Ministers, UNESCO and the SADC Secretariat, through a memorandum of understanding between the two institutions, are supporting three teacher areas at regional level: (1) a regional comprehensive teacher policy; (2) a regional teacher competence framework; and (3) a regional professional teacher council.

To support the areas of a regional teacher policy and a regional competence framework, UNESCO ROSA organized a Regional Meeting on Teacher Policies and Standards in Harare, Zimbabwe in October 2016. In this meeting, the countries in the Southern Africa sub-region shared practices on teacher standards and competences and explored modalities for harmonizing and consolidating SADC member country competence frameworks into a regional Teacher Competence framework. This work has however proven to be challenging as the development and implementation of teacher standards is a long process requiring political will as well as the necessary finances.

After this meeting, ROSA decided to prioritize the work on Competencies and Standards, as a building block for the envisaged regional policy framework. During the different consultations, participants noted the need to establish a representative technical committee/task force to lead the process of developing regional competencies and standards for teachers. Each government has a representative who is part of the Regional Task Team. In order to formalize the task team and with the aim of progressing towards a Regional Framework on Teacher Standards and Competencies, UNESCO ROSA, in partnership with the SADC Secretariat and the Government of Zambia, organized a Southern Africa Regional Meeting on Teacher Standards and Competencies on 14-15 June, 2017 in Lusaka, Zambia. During this meeting, government representatives 1) shared country practices regarding the development and implementation of their national teacher standards and competencies and 2) explored modalities for harmonizing and consolidating SADC member country competence frameworks into a regional Teacher Standards/Competence framework. It was agreed that such a Regional Framework would promote the quality of education in the SADC Region and the harmonization of existing country practices as well as encourage the crafting of national frameworks. It will also facilitate the work of Teacher Councils in the SADC countries.

The SADC Task Team for Teacher Standards met for the first time in Lusaka in June 2017. UNESCO and the SADC secretariat reported the outcomes of the meeting to the SADC Meeting of Ministers in June 2017 in Swaziland. During this meeting, the SADC Ministers approved and endorsed the constitution of a Task Team to develop a draft Regional Framework for Teacher Standards and Competencies. The Task Team is composed of Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and chaired by South Africa in its capacity as SADC Chair.

Informed by the recommendations of the Lusaka meeting and the existing national frameworks in the region, UNESCO ROSA produced elements of a draft framework. The Task Team members facilitated preliminary consultations throughout October and November 2017, and reported their feedback during a second meeting of the SADC Task Team for Teacher Standards held in Johannesburg, South Africa on 21-22 November 2017. During this meeting, participants unpacked and discussed different aspects of the SADC framework including terminology to be used, rational for the framework, elements to be included, alignment with global, regional and national frameworks, consultation processes that are needed to legitimize the framework and implementation modalities. The finalized draft framework will be presented to the SADC Technical Committee on Higher Education, Research and Development in June 2018.

Besides the interventions at regional level, UNESCO continues to support member states in the region at national level, guided by the recommendations and needs that were expressed by member states in regional meetings and recognizing that the countries are at different stages. The extra-budgetary projects implemented in the region all have a teacher component, and acknowledge the need for improving teachers in the various focus areas.

In line with the regional work on competencies and standards, the Capacity Development for Education (CapED) programme in Zambia is focused on teachers and is supporting the development of the Zambia national Teacher Standards and Competences Framework. The second area of intervention of the Zambia CapED project is on improving teacher pedagogy through training and development of materials.

In the area of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), the EU funded Skills and Technical Education Program (STEP) in Malawi has a component on TVET teachers. The project aims to review existing technical teacher training programmes, develop a Continuous Professional Training (CPT) Strategy for upgrading TEVET teachers and instructors, and to conduct intensive training for teachers and instructors at all levels.

In the field of ICTs in Education, the UNESCO-Korea Funds-in-Trust (KFIT) (Mozambique and Zimbabwe) and the UNESCO-China Funds-in-Trust (CFIT) (Namibia and Zambia) programmes both seek to enhance the capacity of key teacher education/training institutions to equip teacher trainers and teachers with ICT competencies to improve the quality of teaching and learning.

In the domain of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), the China funded Victoria Charitable Trust Fund project on Play and resilience, implemented in South Africa and Zimbabwe addresses the issue of capacity development in ECCE, through the training of preschool and nursery administrators, teachers and caregivers. In Namibia, through the UNESCO/China Funds-in-Trust project “Capacity Development for Quality in Pre- and Lower Primary Teacher Education in Namibia” significant strides have been made regarding the professional development of pre- and lower primary in-service teachers as well as the teacher education faculty who are training the next generation of teachers. This was achieved through a two year country-wide inter-institutional action research initiative (Phase I 2014 and Phase II 2015 and ECD Advocacy Workshop).

In the area of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), the UNESCO-Japan Funds-in-Trust (JFIT) sponsored project on environmental scan on the practice of ESD in the region also focuses on teachers. Based on the environmental scan, an ESD training course with five action areas on “Sustainability Starts with Teachers” was designed. The project focuses on the training of secondary teacher educators to initiate exemplary ESD change projects that will model best practice for ESD in the SADC region, on the African continent and internationally. 

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