Why All SADC Member States Should Join DEASA

Major distance and open learning providers in the world have made significant progress towards the establishment of a “world distance and open learning university”. Moreover, donors and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are gradually moving away from funding one institution or one country in favour of targeting regions. It is against this background that we are urging all SADC member states to join the Distance Education Association of Southern Africa (DEASA).

DEASA, a regional powerhouse in distance and open learning is the train that all SADC member states should board in pursuit of developing their human resources. Tony Dodds, an eminent scholar in distance and open learning revealed shocking statistics at the recent Pan Commonwealth of Learning Conference in Durban that in 2000, the world’s 125 million children were illiterate, 50 million of them in Africa. He further postulated that of the 875 million illiterate adults, 200 million were in Africa. His projections indicated that by 2015, 55 million children and 250 million adults in Africa would be illiterate.

The above statistics indicates that Africa and indeed southern Africa face a huge problem that will drain her limited resources. SADC member states should note the striking factor of urgency that Africa has one of the fastest growing populations in the world. How will Africa feed, educate and sustain her millions? How should she best protect herself from a greedy world? Faced with such realities and with the growing awareness that there is no longer time for lengthy trial and error, social experiment and profligate actions, Southern African countries stand poised at the threshold that will determine her future. The only ray of hope for SADC member states is to educate their people and DEASA could play a meaningful role in the process.

In his novel; The Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad portrayed Africa as a continent of barbaric, illiterate and pitiful people. Africa then was seen as the Dark Continent. For too long now the technologically advanced countries of the world have perpetuated the image of Africa as peopled by stereotypes and myths. African leaders are now heralding the birth of an African renaissance. We are of the view that Southern African countries are still close to a fresh start in ODL and as such DEASA has the responsibility to nurture and support SADC member states’ efforts in the provision of ODL to the masses that are out of school. Education is also viewed as one of the essential components that have the potential to lead to the success of the African renaissance. The New Economic Programme for African Development (NEPAD), can only succeed if Africa develops knowledge societies in which people learn new skills and technologies to increase productivity.

By joining DEASA, SADC member states can be globally competitive in ODL and can even produce materials for export to other less developed regions of the continent to reverse the situation where Africa has become the dumping ground of irrelevant programmes developed in the first world. It can be argued that the greatest gift of humanity has always been the ability to adapt to the realities of environment but before beginning to cope with the problems, man must see clearly where the problems lie. The world has a lot on to the literate, indeed western technology is locked in the written word and literacy has become the key to development. Distance education providers in the SADC region have to put aside whatever misgivings they might have about one another and join DEASA as they would be in a better position to come up with new objectives and solutions fitted to the specific needs of Southern African people. The Southern Africa’s cultures and past may provide exciting ingredients for ODL that the rest of the world has been waiting for.

By joining DEASA, all SADC member states will be enhancing the communal spirit that the founding fathers and mothers of our different countries adopted in order to develop and prosper as a region when they formed SADC. It should be noted that it takes patience and foresight, immense faith and impeccable judgment if people are to make best choices, the ones most sustainable and appropriate to their needs and which will provide the greatest good for greatest numbers.