SWAKOPMUND: The chairperson of the Distance Education Association of Southern Africa (DEASA) says Open and Distance Learning (ODL) will in future be viewed as a first option, and not as second-best to conventional education.
Dr Primrose Kurasha stated this during the official opening of the 47th DEASA Conference here on Friday.
She indicated that ODL will become a “first-class delivery mode” for a great number of people as it offers the flexibility to study anytime and anywhere, and also offers people the opportunity to exit and return to learning at will.
Explaining the structure of the association, she stated that DEASA has an executive board which consists of members from 13 Southern African Development Community (SADC) states.
“DEASA enables its members to share research findings, information on best practice and opportunities to collaborate in the development of quality distance learning programmes and services,” Kurasha stated.
The association’s operations are guided by its 2010 to 2015 strategic plan which focuses on the areas of research analysis (chaired by Zimbabwe); capacity-building and partnerships (chaired by Botswana); policy development and facilitation (chaired by South Africa) and quality promotion (chaired by Namibia).
She stated that in the process of executing its strategic plan, DEASA has found it critical to undertake ODL advocacy in order to address misconceptions about open and distance education, as well as to scale up on the ODL uptake in the region.
The DEASA chairperson added that the three-day conference therefore seeks to showcase the important role of ODL which is anchored to the theme ‘Promoting Advocacy for Open and Distance Learning in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Region’.
“The theme is relevant given that most SADC member states are currently busy developing their national ODL policies and some are revisiting the policies to align them with the regional ODL framework, recently approved by the various Ministries of Education,” she said.
The theme was further divided into sub-themes namely National ODL Policy Frameworks, ODL Governance and Management, Resources Mobilisation for ODL, ODL Quality Assurance and Qualifications, and Impact Assessment of ODL Provisions.
The sub-themes were set to be discussed in depth by the members during the conference.
Karusha also noted that the highlights achieved by DEASA through individual and collective efforts amongst others include the launch of the Open University of Mauritius, the Botswana Open University which will be launched in April 2013, and the various strategic policies approved for facilitating quality ODL development and delivery.
“These are exciting times for ODL in the region as our Governments are now showing political will and support,” she noted.
DEASA is a regional body aimed at promoting open and distance education. It operates in Namibia, Tanzania, Botswana, Malawi, Angola, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, Madagascar, Lesotho, Mauritius, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.