Garemotlhose Junction, Western Bye-Pass
Block 6, Plot 39972 Gaborone
+267 318 0094 / +267 364 6088

Our History



The Southern African Development Community Centre for Distance Education (SADC - CDE) formally known as the Southern African Distance Education Centre (SARDEC) has been in existence for nearly 10 years. The SADC-CDE was conceptualized by the SADC Ministers of Education and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) outside the SADC Secretariat framework although the SADC Secretariat had been consulted on its formation. The Centre’s legal existence was subsequently formalized in accordance with the SADC framework as specified in the SADC protocol on Education and Training with reference to distance education, article 9 item 4 and in August 2012 recognised as a SADC Subsidiarity organization see Appendix 1 for ease of reference.

The SADC-CDE is hosted by the Ministry of Education and Skills Development in Botswana (now Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology) and is housed at the Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning (BOCODOL), now the Botswana Open University (BOU).. It started operating in June 2005 in Botswana after COL and the Ministry of Education (Botswana) signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) undertaking to establish and support the Centre for an initial period of three years.

The Mandate of the Centre is to promote collaborative initiatives in capacity building towards regional best practices in ODL for accelerated human resources development. The following vision and mission drive the Centre:


Excellence in Open and Distance Learning


SADC-CDE provides capacity building programmes for effective and efficient management of ODL institutions within the SADC countries and acts as a repository for institutions’ information, materials and expertise.

The Centre’s major functions are as follows:

  • Capacity Building in ODL.
  • Facilitates Collaboration between ODL institutions.
  • Facilitates research in ODL in the region.
  • Promotes advocacy for Distance Education.
  • Facilitates sharing of resources: materials, information and expertise.
  • Nurtures and supports delivery of quality Distance Education.
  • Disseminates COL related information locally

SADC-CDE is therefore an institution serving and belonging to the SADC region supported by the Commonwealth of Learning with a project budget of up to Canadian $300 000.00 over three years i.e. Canadian $100 000.00 per financial year and the Ministry of Education and Skills Development, now Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology), Botswana with office space, furniture, institutional running expenses and personal emoluments for the two SADC officers manning the Centre. The support budget has however been reduced to Canadian $180 000.00 over a period of three years i.e. Canadian $60 000.00 per year. Appendix 2 MoAs 2009-2012 and 2012-2015.

More of our History

2. Background Information

2.1       Establishment of SADC-CDE

The establishment of SADC-CDE followed an extensive consultation process that is traced to the February 2004 All Africa Ministers of Education’s Conference in Cape Town whose theme was “Transforming Education for a New Africa: Realising the Potential of Open Learning and Distance Education”. The Conference was convened to help Ministers to appreciate the potential of open and distance education as well as to explore the modalities of how it could be used to take forward the agreements reached during MINEDAF VIII Conference held in Dar Es Salaam in December 2002. Several experts attended and presented papers amongst them; The President and CEO of The Commonwealth of Learning (COL), South African Minister for Education, Assistant Director of UNESCO, Vice Chancellor of the University of South Africa, the Vice Chancellor of the Open University of United Kingdom, and the Chairman of NEPAD’s steering committee. 

The President and Chief Executive Officer of The Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Gajaraj Dhanarajan, reintroduced the idea of a Southern African Centre of Excellence in Open and Distance Learning (ODL) to the SADC Ministers of education at this Conference.  Prior to the conference, according to the COL Three year Plan 2003 – 2006, COL anticipated in the horizon clear opportunities to help develop “a regional centre for Southern Africa, in partnership with SADC, perhaps located in Botswana, home of the SADC Secretariat.  The COL Three year plan had been presented to the 15th triennial Conference of Commonwealth Ministers of Education (CCEM) held on 27-30 October 2003, in Edinburgh, Scotland for endorsement where Commonwealth Education Ministers, including SADC Ministers agreed that a centre of excellence in ODL should be established in Southern Africa, preferably in Botswana.  The Centre was envisaged to be a hub that will nurture and support delivery of quality distance education as well as to build capacity within the region in various ODL programmes and projects and the promotion of ODL advocacy.  The Centre was to be the second in Africa as COL had already helped to establish a similar one in West Africa to support that part of the world.

The conference concluded by identifying inter alia; “collaboration within and between countries as important to high quality and cost effective distance education”and recommended that there should be; “support for regional institutional entities in capacity building and research in Open and Distance Learning and Distance Education”. 

The SADC Education Ministers welcomed the idea and consequently, there was a dialogue between the Ministers and The President and CEO of COL that rationalized on where and how the centre was to be established.  Botswana was ultimately suggested as the country that should host it primarily on the premise that Botswana already hosts the SADC Secretariat as the need for constant communication between the two was envisaged. 

2.2       The Forum: SADC Senior Education officials

In May 2004, senior education officials from the SADC member states converged in Gaborone, Botswana where they formed a Consultative Forum that drew the framework which guided the operations of SADEC subsequently SADC-CDE. All SADC member states were represented in the forum except for 4 of the countries namely; South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania and Angola. 

2.2.1 Rationale:  the establishment of the Centre

The need for the Centre was further strengthened during the May 2004 where according to the report of the forum, the first day was focused largely on understanding developments in distance education in Southern Africa.  Tony Mays of the South African Institute of Distance Education (SAIDE) presented a paper that summarized three research reports; the overview of distance education in Sub Saharan Africa, critical success factors for distance education in Sub Saharan Africa and costing model for distance education in Sub Saharan Africa.  The paper also identified various areas of need that could constitute the regional centre’s programme.  All participants strongly endorsed the concept of a regional centre and agreed that the centre will focus on Southern Africa as identified by SADC.  

2.2.2 Governance Structure of the Centre:

It was agreed that all Southern African states are to automatically be members unless they indicated otherwise.  Two levels of governance were agreed; the Consultative Forum and the Advisory Board.  The former was agreed to meet annually or biennially while the latter, which was to be made up of five countries, was agreed to meet once or twice a year.  The forum also identified cooperating partners such as; UNESCO, ADEA, DEASA, COL and the SADC Secretariat as board members. Five countries were nominated to be in the board namely; Botswana (Chair), DRC, Lesotho, Mauritius, and Zambia.

Botswana – Chair
Swaziland (MoE)
Lesotho (MoE)
Zambia (MoE)
SADC Representative
COL   Representative
Distance Education Association of Southern Africa (DEASA)
SARDEC Director

Appendix 3 Summary of Advisory Boards, Chairs & host countries

2.2.3 The Centre’s Programme

A consultant from South Africa contracted to develop and draw the centre’s programme, presented her findings to the forum. These were discussed at length and changes made before finally being accepted as the road map of the centre in terms of its focus. 

2.2.4 Commitment Pledge

The need for COL and Botswana to sign an agreement was also expressed. Thus The Commonwealth of Learning President and Chief Executive Officer, Sir John Daniel, and the former Minister for Education Botswana, the late Honourable George Kgeledi Kgoroba signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on 11 June 2004 and 29 June 2004 respectively, establishing the centre of expertise in ODL for Southern Africa referred to in the (MoA) as a Regional Centre of Open and Distance Learning (RCODL). The MoA has since been renewed twice over the period and the current (2012-2015) is due to end in June 2015. Other cooperating partners pledged to support the centre with costs associated with implementing the programme of the Centre. 

3. Contribution of the Centre in the Human resource development of the SADC Region

To date, the Centre has contributed as follows in the human resources development of the region among several activities workshops, seminars, public lectures, conferences and short and long term training. The table below summaries the short and long term training outputs:

  Course name/ Description No. Enrolled Actual enrolled/ benefitted Status Countries
1 Practitioner Research Evaluation & Skills Training (PREST)-BOCODOL 65 21 Completed Botswana(20)
2 Certificate in Distance Education for Practitioners (CDEP)-BOCODOL 12 11 Completed Namibia (5)
Botswana (3)
Tanzania (1)
Zambia (3)
3 Post Graduate Diploma in Distance Education (PGDDE)-IGNOU 39 39 Completed Botswana(12)
4 Masters of Arts in Distance Education (MADE) IGNOU 38 38 6 completed
32 still pursuing (MADE)
5 Certificate in Gender in our Everyday Lives (University of Pretoria) 18 18 16 completed
2 did not complete
6 Botswana(6)Malawi(4)Tanzania(5)Lesotho(2)Swaziland(1) 17 15 completed Botswana(8)
7 e-learning Course for on-line course developers & tutors(Namibia Polytechnic) 20 20 completed Botswana(10)
8 Quality Assurance(Open Polytechnic of New Zealand) 5 5 Ongoing Botswana(3)
4. Networking and Partnership Collaborative ventures

The Centre collaborates with other ODL providers such as:

4.1 DEASA/SADC-CDE collaboration established in 2012 through a signed MoU which fosters

- joint undertaking of common projects/activities including ODL capacity building projects
- Sharing the development & publishing of the DEASA/SADC-CDE International Journal of Distance Education
- DEASA availing expertise that the Centre can utilise for various capacity building projects

SADC-CDE serves DEASA as Secretariat

4.2 Signed memorandum of Understanding with the Open University of Tanzania (OUT). A collaboration established in 2014 through a signed MoU which fosters professional development through sponsorship in distance education programmes at certificate, diploma and degree levels.

4.3 A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the SADC-CDE and SADC Secretariat is yet to be finalized. The latter’s legal division is looking into the matter. The signed document will guide operations between the two parties.

5. Evaluation of the SADC -Centre for Distance Education

In 2014 the Commonwealth of Learning engaged a consultant to evaluate the performance of the SADC-CDE in the 2012-2015 Triennium against its set objectives and future existence.  A report was released at the end of the evaluation and is yet to be discussed by the Advisory Board. The report is attached for ease of reference.


Garemotlhose Junction, Western Bye-Pass
Block 6, Plot 39972/1 Gaborone

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