Johannesburg — Despite the number of new public and private institutions that have been built over the last two decades in Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, the region still faces a shortage of higher learning institutions.
Addressing the extraordinary SADC Meeting of Ministers of Higher Education on Tuesday, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize, said the higher education system in the region was not growing sufficiently in either size or capacity in order to meet the demand of a growing population of youth.
"We do not have enough academic personnel and the majority of those in our systems do not possess enough training either in teaching or in research or both.
In South Africa, only 33% of our academics have PhD qualifications and depend only on them to produce research outputs and supervise Masters and Doctoral students," Mkhize said, adding that this resulted in countries struggling to produce a new generation of academics.
The meeting aims to create a platform for all Ministers of Higher Education and Training in the region to reflect and share experiences on how they could speed up the revitalisation of higher education.
Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande proposed the meeting at the ordinary meeting of SADC Ministers of Education that was hosted by Namibia in 2011.
Some of the challenges facing the region include failure to develop indigenous languages to make them languages of scholarship and research; and not being able to improve the facilities to the extent that is necessary in order to produce the right quantity and quality of graduates with the requisite skills needed by the countries in the region.
Mkhize said that in order to address these challenges, funding was needed -- the question remained where the money would come from.
She warned that in discussing funding, they should not be blind to the fact 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 investment in foreign students in 2011 amounted to over R1.04 billion on students from the SADC region, and R735 761 000 for non-SADC students.
Vice Minister of Education of the Republic of Mozambique, who is the chairperson of the SADC Ministers of Education and Training, Professor Arlindo Chilundo, said that promoting knowledge development and dissemination, in particular higher education, was the cornerstone for attaining the regional integration and development agenda of SADC and eradicating poverty amongst the citizens of the region.
Echoing Mkhize's sentiments, Chilunda said that SADC had a serious challenge with regards to higher education, in particular in the areas of access and participation by the population, where the region's participation rate of 6.5% was below the global average of 30%.
"As a region, we must transform our approach to higher education in a revolutionary manner, and I am confident that this meeting will set the tone for the required revolutionary transformation of the landscape of our higher education."
Chilunda added that new strategies for funding higher education and its infrastructure should be extensively explored to transform and expand higher education in the region.
This would include putting in place the relevant policies and mechanism to attract and promote the participation of the private sector and donors, and tapping into the growing use of information and communication technologies.