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The Adult Learning Forum in South Africa promotes ALE during Adult Learner’s Month

20 November 2023 | Adult Learning Forum Non-formal education

South Africa

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This August, the Adult Learning Forum (ALF) in Cape Town joined a steering committee of stakeholders to prepare an event to commemorate Adult Learners’ Week (ALW) and International Literacy Day (ILD) during September. Some of the partner organisations included the Canon Collins Trust, Artscape theatre, the Public Education Office of the Parliament, various Community Learning Centres (CLCs), and youth representing CLCs.

This year's programme was held under the theme - Promoting literacy for a world in transition: Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies. The event was hosted on the September 15th,which is the International Day of Democracy. The event was held in Cape Town Parliament, and focused on the various forms of learning - informal, non-formal, and formal.

One of the speakers, Ashley Visagie, who is a PhD student, spoke about the militarised approach to discipline in some schools, and the stigmatisation of poor young people in the efforts to create safer schools.

An input on Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) by another PhD student, Helga Jansen, emphasised the need for a more socially responsive and nuanced approach to skills development, one that fits with local economic conditions and links to Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) of local municipalities. She also highlighted the need to re-imagine a more humane, deracialised and economically equitable system that can help free the country from its historical baggage.

Youth representatives from the Adult Learning Forum spoke eloquently about their experiences in their communities and about the challenges they face. Two former CLC students spoke about their experiences in Further Education and Training (FET) colleges, where they feel discriminated against. They stated how CLC qualifications are not valued equally as other school certificates. They are, nonetheless, pursuing their studies in anticipation of attaining a qualification and improving their work prospects.

Two presentations focusing on Community Colleges followed - one by the Director of Canon Collins Trust, Ivor Baatjes, and the other by the Director of DVV International South Africa, Farrell Hunter. The presentations expressed frustration with the slow progress in implementing non-formal adult education (NFE) within the Community Education and Training Colleges (CETCs), which are responsible for adult education implementation in the country.

The presentations also noted the irony of celebrating democracy when thirty years into the New South Africa, such high levels of poverty continue to exist, and the country has the unenviable record of having the highest inequality in the world. However, even faced with these and many other daunting challenges, communities across South Africa are working (and succeeding) at finding ways to eke out a living and improve their social conditions.

The ongoing challenge is for Community Colleges and their CLCs to implement more responsive NFE programmes and approaches that help to address the precarious conditions that affect many youth and adults from impoverished communities across the country.