Rethinking Adult Education


The low level of literacy in South Africa prier and post 1994 cannot be viewed independently as the apartheid policies that were in place were far-reaching and served to entrench inequalities and poverty along racial lines. This was achieved by the restricted education system that limited the black majority from accessing quality education facilities and resources.

 According to a study completed bu Stats SA in 2001 16% of South African adults could be considered illiterate. . A further 9.6 million (32%) have not completed primary school and may be considered in need of compensatory basic education. The majority of these people live in rural areas, Mrs Zonzo a resident at R section in Umlazi is one of those people who at the age of 48 had no formal education and basically blames the education system for this. She has fought to make sure that her children don’t fall under the same trap that she did. The system formed appointment commission to formulate the principles and aims of education for the black majority and other non white groups to be separated and less involving indirectly linked to the operating of the country and the world.

 One of those many laws imposed was the ‘Black Bantu Education Act of 1959’ which according to its architect Verwoerd as he placidly put it: “There is no place for [the African] in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour. It is of no avail for him to receive a training which has as its aim, absorption in the European community.”

 In 1994 when a black government was democratically elected into leadership many black South Africans began to believe in the restoration of their dignity, values and economic empowerment. This sentiment was achieved all around by the realisation that they too could go to school and get degrees.

This idea has thus been a glimmer of hope for all South Africans and all its citizens especially the black community.

Based on the vision of providing a better life for all South Africans, the Bill of Rights of the country’s Constitution, states that everyone has a right to education. The state has an obligation, through reasonable measures, to progressively make basic education available and accessible which was how the new government developed a system called ‘Reconstruction and Development Policy75 , where they placed great emphasis on the development of the communities especially in the adult literacy and community development. In addition, the new constitutional and legislative stated that adult basic education Adult Basic Education (ABE) is integral to South Africa’s economic growth and development.

ABET has provided the foundation of fundamental skills, knowledge, and understanding that gives people a basis from which they can progress along a chosen career and life path .Although South Africa has highly impressive legislation for ABET, the fact that an extremely small amount of the education budget is allocated to ABET makes it predestined that this policy is barely implemented.

Government has spent over R6,1 billion over 5 years towards promoting literacy . Such programmes have helped over 360 000 people to enrol which is not a large number considering that now an estimated 24% of the population over 15 years of age (4.7 million) has never been to school and a further 4.9 million are functionally illiterate .

 The government has also established the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), which has helped develop the South African Qualifications Act (No. 58 of 1995).The key this was   to create a national framework for learning achievement which was the implementation of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).All these programmes are trying to readdress the past discrimination of the education system in training and education as well as providing employment opportunities. It has contributed to the development of each learner and the social development of the nation at large.

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