Adventist education in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division (SID) started in 1893 with the opening of the first Adventist college outside the United States, Claremont Union College in Cape Town, South Africa, which also included primary and high school levels. As of 2019, the SID has 481 educational institutions, among which are seven universities and two nursing and midwifery mid-level colleges (one- to three-year certificate/diploma programs), serving 150,560 students and employing approximately 5,560 teachers, an increase of 71 schools and 2,476 students over the 2010-2015 period.
The SID Education Department exists to provide guidance and oversight that helps schools prepare learners spiritually, mentally, physically, and socially for selfless service in this world and in the world to come. Its schools’ emphasis on character and academic excellence is a point of departure from other education systems. This mission is informed by God-given commands located in Deuteronomy 6, verses 6 and 7: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (NIV)* and Isaiah 54:13: “‘All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.’” Thus, the SID Education Department desires to see every school staff member become a minister in and out of class, and for every child and young adult to choose to become a candidate for heaven.
Education Planning and Advisory
From June 14 to 17, 2016, SID union directors of education and heads of tertiary institutions attended an education advisory, facilitated by the General Conference’s liaison with the SID, Hudson Kibuuka, and facilitators from the SID office. One of the advisory outcomes was producing the SID’s 2015-2020 strategic plan for education with the theme “Reach the World.”
Challenges Facing Adventist Education in the SID
The SID Education Department currently faces several challenges, the most critical of which include:
*Dwindling financial support: Many sponsoring organizations (division, union, and local conferences/missions) fail to provide adequate financial appropriations for their educational institutions. Therefore, all schools over-rely on tuition fees for operations and infrastructure development.
*Low enrollments: In most countries in the SID, the government offers free primary and secondary education. Some of our institutions struggle to attract students because of their unsatisfactory quality of education due to inadequate staffing, facilities, and infrastructure compared to public and other private schools.
*High fees: Some potential students find our university/college fees too high compared to other private providers within the same geographic area.
*Loss of funds to fraudulent infrastructure development donor-contractors: During the current quinquennium, almost all higher education institutions have lost considerable funds to fraudulent infrastructure developer-donor contractors who failed to complete projects even after being paid the institution’s share of the contract. The buildings that were constructed were of poor quality and deemed unsafe. In some cases, institutions could not raise additional funds to complete or replace the poor-quality structures. As a result, more stringent processes for identifying donor-developers, developers, and contractors have been implemented.
*Access to Adventist education: Although church membership is increasing at a phenomenal rate, the growth is not commensurate with increased access to Adventist education due to the scarcity of Adventist schools, high fees, and other previously mentioned factors. Due to unfavorable economic situations, many communities and conferences cannot construct school buildings on their own. During the 2010-2015 quinquennium, Maranatha Volunteers International Organization constructed several school structures in various unions. However, since then, very few new schools have been opened.
*Tropical Cyclone Idai: Several educational institutions in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe were destroyed by the Tropical Cyclone Idai, including our schools in Beira, Mozambique. This event worsened the already existing challenges of inadequate infrastructure and facilities in our schools due to the loss of buildings, laboratory equipment, library books, and classroom and office furniture.
Despite the numerous critical challenges, the SID school system experienced exciting new developments in the areas of infrastructure, as well as academic and spiritual growth during the 2015-2020 quinquennium.
*Administrative development: Zimbabwe Union Conference has been realigned into three unions: Central, East, and West union conferences, making it easier to supervise schools in the country. Each union has been conducting teachers’ conventions annually to reorient the staff regarding the mission and vision of the SID Department of Education, re-emphasize the need to improve integration of faith and learning, motivate teachers, share practical school-sustainability skills, and increase interaction among the staff of different schools.
*Infrastructure development: In the Zimbabwe Central Union Conference, a college of education, the first of its kind in the SID in recent memory, was commissioned by the government’s minister of higher education on March 10, 2018. The new Zimbabwe Adventist College of Education is designed to meet the need for teachers trained in an Adventist institution located within the division territory.
*Academic development: Throughout the SID, Adventist education continues to expand. Below are examples of several academic training programs and opportunities that have helped students, teachers, and administrators reach their educational goals.
1. Malawi Union Conference: The training school at Matandani Mission, the second-oldest Adventist mission station in Malawi, has been rehabilitated and reopened. The school offers technician certificate courses in bricklaying and carpentry to enable students to operate their own small businesses upon completion of the course requirements. Matandani Training School used to attract students from within and outside the division to study industrial arts, but the courses were discontinued in the mid-1980s.
2. Zambia Union Conferences: Rusangu University, with 4,000 registered students, has become the fastest-developing institution in the SID in terms of enrollment, research, infrastructure, and academic development. Two additional residence halls for male and female students have recently been constructed. Its academic programs lead to bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in agriculture, business studies, education, public health, nursing and midwifery, geography, music, and theology. Rusanga University is also engaged in research on the moringa plant, which grows in warm-to-hot areas like Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. This research has attracted national and international researchers since it is widely claimed that the plant’s leaves contain medicinal properties that can cure various diseases, enable an HIV-positive person to live healthier and longer, lower high blood pressure, and increase milk production in lactating women. The research aims at finding out if the claims can be scientifically substantiated.
In 2018, the university held an education convention with the theme: “Taking Adventist Education to a Higher Level.” Participants included many individuals from different countries, and the resource persons included four associate directors of education from the church’s world headquarters as well as professionals in the SID territory.
3. Southern African Union Conference: Helderberg College, the oldest existing Adventist institution of higher education in Africa, earned accreditation from a government regulatory authority as a degree-granting college, and in November 2017, changed its name to Helderberg College of Higher Education. This newly acquired government accreditation has brought more enrollment applications than the college can accommodate. The school celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2018 with a ceremony officiated by General Conference director of education Lisa Beardsley-Hardy.
4. Zimbabwe Central Union Conference: Anderson Adventist High School maintains its position as one of the five best secondary schools in Zimbabwe, with a 100 percent pass rate both at Ordinary (Form 4) and Advanced Levels (Form 6) for five consecutive years (2014-2019). Each of the school’s classrooms is fitted with projectors and interactive boards to facilitate lesson delivery. The school also has a flourishing student work program.
5. SID Department of Education: The department facilitated a consultative conference for all the heads, deputies, and deans of faculty of the SID institutions of higher education to share strategies for dealing with mutual academic and administrative challenges and to explore ways to increase collaboration and cooperation in implementing academic policies. Among the facilitators were General Conference associate director of education Hudson Kibuuka and the former president of Andrews University, Niels-Erik Andreasen.
6. Benchmarking tour: To modernize teaching and learning practices and school-management systems using ICT (Information, Communications, and Technology), directors of education from all the unions in SID visited Adventist educational institutions in the Central Brazil Union Conference for benchmarking purposes. The tour also attracted heads of higher education institutions as well as union and local conference officers.
Spiritual development: South-Western Angola Union: SID schools continue to be centers of evangelism in addition to being centers of education excellence. The transformative effects of the schools motivate many parents and guardians to entrust their children to our schools so they can grow and learn within an Adventist setting. In the process, most of the students and teachers who previously had no relationship with Christ surrender their lives to Him and choose to be baptized.
Zimbabwe East Union Conference: At one of the union’s teacher conventions, five non-Adventist teachers (four men and one woman) were baptized. They decided that they needed to follow and abide by the truth. Adventist schools in the Zimbabwe Union Conference are formidable centers of evangelism and are among the preferred institutions by local community members.
Assessment and accreditation visits have been an ongoing project. Most of the educational institutions in the 12 SID unions have been visited for this purpose, including 472 primary and secondary schools. Visits were also made to the three nursing and midwifery colleges: Kanye Seventh-day Adventist College of Nursing in Botswana, Maluti Adventist College in Lesotho, and Mwami in Zambia, as well as the universities in Angola, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Plans for the Quinquennium (2020 – 2025)
- To encourage union and local conference officers to better support and invest in Adventist education as one of the most effective strategies for evangelization in addition to public evangelism.
- To encourage union and local conference bursary committees to be more inclusive and equitable in providing bursaries. In many unions, bursaries are offered only for theology-related programs at the expense of applicants interested in business studies, education, management, auditing, and strategic planning. Most beneficiaries have been males rather than females, and primarily late middle-age rather than early middle-age persons.
- To get more schools accredited. Accredited institutions tend to attract more students as parents, guardians, and sponsors seek assurance of high-quality education amidst declining education standards in their communities.
- To encourage school boards to employ business managers with proven entrepreneurial skills to sustain the operation of our schools, given the reduction/absence of financial support from the sponsoring organizations.
- To urge education directors in all the unions and local conferences and school management/governance boards to supply schools with Bible textbooks and encourage teachers to execute the same level of planning for teaching the Bible curriculum as they do in other subjects/courses.
- To encourage and nurture greater collaboration, interaction, and interdependence among Adventist tertiary institutions in the SID and beyond in research, development of new academic programs, teaching, and sporting activities.
- To urge union executive committees to assess and evaluate the performance of their respective directors of education in school supervision, support for school staff, and provision of critical supplies.
The 2015-2020 period was as challenging as it was exciting. Although there were numerous threats to the sustainable provision of education, there also were many successes to celebrate and for which we thank God. Of particular significance has been the unwavering determination and resilience manifested by school leaders, staff, students, and other major stakeholders in carrying out the mission and living the vision of the SID Department of Education against all odds. Yes, Master Teacher, come!
Publishing Note: Due to the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic and the twice-postponed General Conference session, this quinquennial issue was delayed. Reports in this issue cover the 2015-2020 quinquennium.
Mozecie Kadyakapita, “Remembering the Past While Forging Toward the Future,” The Journal of Adventist Education 83:4 (2021): 47-51. https://doi.org/10.55668/jae0021
* Scripture references in this report are quoted from the New International Version of the Bible (NIV). Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.