For the first time ever, due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, the DETA conference was held virtually from 3–5 August 2021. The biannual conference was hosted by the Unit for Distance Education at the Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria (UP), in conjunction with the South African Institute for Distance Education (Saide).
The Distance Education and Teachers’ Training in Africa (DETA) conference was established to create a platform for African teacher educationists and all those collaboratively working with them on the continent to share knowledge and deliberate on educational issues. The conference has always focused on how practices can be enhanced by learning from the experiences of others, and on how theories and models borrowed from the North can be challenged by more culturally sensitive perspectives developed from empirical data produced in diverse African contexts.
The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Reimagining African Teacher Education through Distance for a Post-pandemic Future’. The sub-themes addressed four major aspects of distance teacher education content, namely pedagogy, technology and the management of distance teacher education. The conference was well attended and went from a continental to a global-scale conference with distance education professionals from African and international intuitions of higher learning who registered as delegates to virtually attend the conference. The countries that were represented included the United Kingdom, Portugal, Kenya, South Africa, Eswatini, Uganda, Lesotho, Ghana, Namibia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Rwanda, Japan and Canada.
The opening address was delivered by Professor Tawana Kupe, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UP. Keynote speakers included Prof Asha Kanwar, CEO, Commonwealth of Learning, Burnaby, Canada; Prof Meoli Kashorda, Executive Director, Kenya Education Network (KENET), Kenya; Prof Jessica Aguti, Director, Institute of Open, Distance and e-Learning, Makerere University, Uganda; and Prof Linda van Ryneveld, Head: Comprehensive Online Education Services, UP, South Africa. The discussion panellists were Dr Moneoang Leshota, Senior Researcher, Mamelodi Campus, UP; Dr Kris Stutchbury, Open University, UK; Dr Pritee Auckloo, Mauritius Institute of Education; Prof Silvance Abeka, Dean, School of Informatics and Innovative Systems; and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, Kenya. The panel discussion was chaired by Prof Mpine Makoe, Chair, Commonwealth of Learning, University of South Africa.
The DETA conference is the brainchild of the Unit for Distance Education in the Faculty of Education at UP. A decision was taken from the onset to adopt a collaborative approach in hosting the conference. Hence, the DETA maiden conference held in 2005 was hosted by the University of Pretoria, South Africa, in collaboration with key national partners the South African Institute for Distance Education (Saide), The National Association of Distance Education and Open Learning in South Africa (NADEOSA) and the University of South Africa (UNISA). However, the South African Institute for Distance Education (Saide) has remained a co-host since its inception.
Previous DETA conferences were co-hosted by Uganda (University of Makerere, 2007), Ghana (University of the Cape Coast, 2009), Mozambique (Eduardo Mondlane University, Maputo, Mozambique, 2011), Kenya (University of Nairobi, 2013), Mauritius (Mauritius Institute of Education, 2015), Rwanda (University of Rwanda, College of Education, 2017) and Nigeria (University of Lagos, 2019).The next conference is scheduled to take place in 2023 and the host will be announced in due course.