It was an exciting moment in Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa when delegates from 11 SADC countries (Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) came together. When such a gathering happens, expectations are held high to work around issues affecting the region. Consequently, the countries came together for the UNESCO-SADC Policy Dialogue on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) from 14 to 16 March 2022.
The Policy Dialogue brough together 125 delegates from the 11 SADC countries. The delegation was drawn from Ministries of Education, Environment and Sustainable Development, key NGOs, Sustainability Starts with Teachers alumni, ESD for 2030 focal persons, policy makers, senior education actors and SADC secretariat. The dialogue provided a platform for policy actors and educational leaders to discuss sustainability issues in the region as well as providing space to advocate for ESD integration into policies, curriculum and leadership activities in the SADC region.
One of the outstanding outcomes of the gathering was the drafting of SADC ESD Strategy. Delegates recognized an expressed need for the SADC region to have a well-informed and contextualized ESD Strategy framed on four priority areas:
- Promote development of national ESD Framework and/or integrate ESD into existing policies; Foster multi sector approach; Coordination and leadership
- Strengthen regional knowledge management, communication and advocacy platforms and ESD networks
- Partnerships and networking
- Capacity building, training and continuous professional development
The Strategic Framework for ESD in the SADC region falls in the context of the ESD for 2030 framework and within the wider programme of the Futures of Education initiative of UNESCO that seeks to reaffirm education as a common good, and to support a transformative orientation to education. The Futures of Education initiative recognizes that if education is to shape peaceful, just, and sustainable futures, education itself must be transformed. The expectation is that the regional framework will guide SADC Member States to integrate ESD into their education systems, as well as providing the much-needed foundation to work towards ESD for 2030 and the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Having drafted the SADC ESD Strategy, the next plan of action is to present it at the forthcoming SADC Ministerial Meeting to be held in Lilongwe, Malawi in June 2022. The presentation will afford high level government officials and experts to reshape the Strategy further before its finalization.