The University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Education was well represented at the recent Distance Education and Teacher Education in Africa (DETA) 2015 Conference. The event took place at the Mauritius Institute of Education in Réduit, Mauritius, from 20–24 July 2015. It created a platform for African educationists to reflect and engage in discussions on the future of education in Africa. DETA 2015 was the sixth conference of its kind and, like the previous conferences, it aimed to create a unique platform for sharing knowledge and deliberating on educational issues. Dr Johan Hendrikz, of the Unit for Distance Education at the University of Pretoria (UP), is the person who spearheaded the formation of DETA in 2005.
Among the international line-up of keynote speakers and facilitators were many contributors from the Faculty of Education at UP. They were Prof R Evans, Prof I Joubert, Dr F Omidire, Mrs M Moen, Dr E Gaigher, Dr V Mahlangu, Mrs MA Mihai, Prof J Verschoor, Mrs R de Villiers, Dr A Mohlakwana, Ms W Carvalho-Malekane, Mrs J Ferreira-Prevost, Mrs EJ Sujee, Dr T Ogina, Prof JA Slabbert, Prof P du Toit, Dr R Callaghan, Prof J Nieuwenhuis, Dr G Haupt, Ms S Mampane, and Dr R Aluko, who was also part of the organising committee.
The theme for the 2015 conference was, ‘The future we want: Teacher development for the transformation of education in diverse African contexts’. The theme was derived from the premise that the time had come for educationists, especially those involved in teacher education in Africa, to seriously reflect on why not enough progress had been made towards achieving the education goals that were set for Africa. Hence the challenge that was laid down to the attendees to explore the role of educationists in creating, ‘The future we want”.
A major concern raised in The Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2013/14, which was published by UNESCO on 29 January 2014, was discussed. The report revealed that, after two decades of involvement of African and international agencies, none of the six ‘Education for all’ goals would be achieved at the global level by the target year of 2015, including the goal of universal primary education (Goal 2). Millions of children in Africa remain excluded from education and millions more who do attend school suffer from a poor quality of education. The Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2013/14 stated that, ‘an education system is only as good as its teachers. Unlocking their potential is essential to enhancing the quality of learning. Evidence shows that education quality improves when teachers are supported, while it deteriorates if they are not, thus contributing to the shocking levels of youth illiteracy captured in this report.’
In addition to the main theme, the following sub-themes also guided the DETA 2015 Conference:
- Teaching children in diverse African contexts
- Pedagogies that will achieve ‘the future we want’ for education in Africa
- The role and impact of technology on teacher development
Quality in education is a prerequisite to establish ‘the future we want’ for education in Africa. Prof Irma Eloff, the Dean of the Faculty of Education at UP, delivered a goodwill message at the official opening of the conference as part of the African Deans of Education Forum. ‘I have now attended three DETA conferences and I find it inspirational’, she said. ‘It is a very powerful network of African researchers who can truly impact positively on the future of education on the continent.’