Address by the Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor MP, at the Colloquium on the Ministerial Committee Report on the Restructuring of Adult Education and Training in South Africa, Burgers Park Hotel, Pretoria.
5 March 2009
Officials from our sister departments,
Representatives of labour federations and teacher unions,
Representatives of Non-Government Organisations,
Representatives from SETAs and Umalusi,
Higher Education Representatives,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
South Africa has to develop diverse, flexible and relevant responses to the wide range of education and training needs in our society. They range from access to literacy, access to second-chance opportunities for basic education, and professional and technical skills training.
Most commentators on our education progress since the advent of democracy agree that much has been achieved and stress that a great deal more needs to be done and that it must be done with full attention to the quality and impact of the programmes we offer.
One of the most significant initiatives has been our ongoing attempt to address illiteracy in South Africa. All three post-democracy governments have introduced interventions to address the challenge of illiteracy. This has been done with many of you as partners and your contribution has supported the erosion of illiteracy among the poorest in our society. Partnerships with civil society have proven to be the strongest base from which to achieve success. This is why we continue to consult you as we are doing today.
All of you are in the trenches of education reconstruction, development, and redress. You are aware that we tend to have very limiting notions of education and training when we focus on adult needs. Whenever adult education is referred to in education debates, people assume the issue is basic literacy.
Very little reference is made to the meaning of adult education and training in a lifelong-learning context.
That meaning transcends basic literacy.
It can be described as a pressing demand for a wide variety of education and training opportunities - access to literacy, second-chance opportunities for young adults, flexible learning paths, work-linked skills programmes, life-skills programmes that will strengthen the quality of life of adults, access to formal qualifications for workers trapped at low levels of employment and then also a basic interest in acquiring increased knowledge in a specific domain or discipline.
The Kha ri Gude mass literacy campaign that we launched last year, and which benefited from contributions many of you made, has clearly illustrated that adults in South Africa are ready to learn.
Kha ri Gude draws on best practices in Cuba and Venezuela and on successful programmes in other countries.
The Campaign has just about completed its first year.
We have exceeded our targets in almost all provinces – especially in KwaZulu Natal, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo where illiteracy is most acute.
Nearly 80% of learners enrolled on the programme are women.
I’m particularly pleased with the support the Campaign has received from our youth who have been participating as facilitators. The Campaign statistics show that 65% of the volunteer educators are below the age of 35 years.
The Campaign has lived up to the slogan in its name by ensuring that all provinces participate in the Campaign. It has also lived up to the slogan by the way the campaign has integrated learning into the communities, using venues that are easily accessible for learners – such as homes, the markets, churches, old age homes, schools, prisons – wherever people are.
The Campaign has had a number of other benefits for communities. It has been instrumental in mobilizing communities and community structures, and has engaged structures such as traditional leaders, councilors, faith-based organizations, community organizations dealing with the disabled, the aged and with development to all focus on learning.
In addition, the Campaign model of implementation that relies on using volunteers from vulnerable communities makes an important contribution to the alleviation of poverty. As 92% of the volunteers are unemployed and live in the areas targeted for literacy, the stipend paid to volunteers for teaching contributes to lifting them out poverty.
I’m especially impressed with the ways in which communities have responded to the Campaign and have set up committees in the communities to provide Campaign oversight.
The Campaign has also contributed to the enhancement of all our official languages. While the materials developed are of an exceptionally high standard, the increased number of readers in the various languages will contribute to the development of all our languages and will promote the development of further reading materials in the official languages.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank those South Africans who have volunteered their services to the Campaign for their critical contribution to nation building.
However, as we record all these positive achievements, we must remember that access to literacy is not the only ambition of adult learners in South Africa and a matric qualification does not fully address their education needs.
In July 2008, I established a Ministerial Committee to draft a green paper on a revamped adult education and training system for South Africa.
One of the things we agreed was that we should remove the word ‘basic’ from our project.
This is because we held the view that ‘basic’ tends to reduce adult learning opportunities to the minimum of level-one literacy or formal study for a senior certificate.
The Ministerial Committee submitted its final report on the 3 November 2008. The report contains policy proposals on the following key areas of action: the policy and legislative environment; funding for adult learning; the institutional landscape; human resource framework; curriculum and qualifications; and a new governance framework for adult learning.
The Ministerial Committee was unable to consult with the general public, educators, experts and other adult education stakeholders due to tight time constraints. The Committee then proposed that a three-pronged consultation processes be initiated, namely:
1. Targeted consultation with government departments, and in particular, the provincial Departments of Labour;
2. Consultative workshops with the community of experts and practitioners, such as Universities, the research community, NGOs, Unions and other representative bodies; and
3. Publishing the report as a discussion document for public comment and allowing sufficient time for comments.
This colloquium is part of that process.
The purpose of this colloquium is to present the Ministerial Committee Report on the Restructuring of Adult Education and Training in South Africa to you.
This colloquium will pave the way for a white paper on adult education in South Africa, which will ultimately lead to the development of new legislation and the adoption of a new act for adult education and training.
The OECD review, as well as the EFA annual report, reveal particular weaknesses in our provision of adult education. You are all aware of some of the problems.
Adult education centres in higher education institutions are closing.
The absence of a resolution around conditions of service poses particular challenges to ABET educators.
Learner achievement in the General Education and Training Certificate is still low.
Yet we also know that a silent revolution is taking place in South Africa around the Kha Ri Gude campaign.
I’m convinced that appropriate new and responsive literacy and adult education programmes will contribute to the alleviation of poverty, the need for human security and sustainable development.
The foundation for this lies with deliberations in the colloquium and the subsequent consultations.
In conclusion, let me take this opportunity to thank members of the Ministerial Committee for the hard work they have put into the development of this report.
Let me also thank you in advance for your valuable contributions.
I’ve no doubt in my mind that the deliberations of this colloquium will assist the Ministry in initiating the processes that will result in the fundamental restructuring of adult education and training in South Africa.
On that note, I wish you well in your deliberations.