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Address at the launch of the textbook series “African Perspective on Adult Learning”, 13 April 2005, Minister Naledi Pandor speeches


Address by Naledi Pandor MP, Minister of Education, at the launch of the textbook series “African Perspective on Adult Learning”, Cape Town International Convention Centre

13 April 2005

Mr Adama Ouane,Director of the UNESCO Institute for Education
Nikki Clarke, MD of Pearson Education Publishers
Director of Ceremonies, Dr Gabo Ntseane, University of Botswana and
Professor Hintzen, Director of the Institute for International Co-operation of the German Adult Education AssociationDistinguished guests

It is a pleasure to be here to launch a series of books entitled “African Perspectives on Adult Learning”, specifically designed for use in the training of adult educators in Africa.

Generally, the field of literacy and adult basic education and training in Africa has been neglected.

It is an “invisible” area in policy and at times in practice. Much more needs to be done to come to grips with the challenge of illiteracy.

While a number of higher education institutions have established adult education units, the dearth of contemporary and applied research on this sector is worrying.

This observation is forcefully confirmed in Maria Torres’ recent excellent report on lifelong learning in the developing world.[1]

Even more regrettably, as Frank Youngman says in the preface to the series, “the post-colonial history of adult education as a field of study in African tertiary education institutions shows that very few indigenous textbooks have been produced over the years … Those that have been developed have been once-off publications that were not followed up and were not widely available.”

If we are serious about adult learning in Africa, and we are, then we need textbooks that reflect African social realities. In fact, we need such textbooks in all phases of education.

Equally important is the need to show the importance of African philosophies and indigenous knowledge systems to adult learning. This would allow us to respond in the affirmative when asked the question: ‘are we (Africans) still chasing gods that are not our own’?[2]

I hope the launch of these textbooks is but a step towards ensuring that African experiences of work in this field are properly documented and widely distributed. Through documenting African experiences we will counter the perception, about which Ngugi Wa Thiong’o wrote so forcefully, that Africans are consumers rather than creators of knowledge.[3]

We also strengthen the possibility of learning through utilizing images and ideas that adult learners will find accessible and familiar.

Given the massive challenge of adult education, it is clear that the partnership between Pearson Education Publishers, UNESCO’s Institute for Education, the University of Botswana and the Institute for International Co-operation of the German Adult Education Association needs to be strengthened in order to develop additional textbooks for adult learning.

This year in South Africa we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter was a guiding light during the struggle for freedom in South Africa. In the section “the doors of learning and culture shall be opened”, the Charter boldly asserted that:

Adult illiteracy shall be ended by a mass state education plan. Over the past ten years the Department of Education has developed a mass state education plan as a response to the challenges around ABET provision. The Department has developed the necessary policies, systems and structures through the legislative framework of the Adult Basic Education and Training Act (Act 52 of 2000).

The South African National Literacy Initiative was established as an agency to co-ordinate the development of the literacy campaign to reduce the high illiteracy rate.

Education and training (including skills development in SMME and agriculture) in the Presidential nodal areas and sites in the nine provinces has been integrated. This project intervention will afford adult learners the opportunity to access skills as well as to get access to the General Education and Training qualification.

Adult education skills programmes have been implemented through the SETAs. This intervention has created the possibility for the provision of skills programmes to adult learners. Schools have become community centres in the practical delivery of ABET programmes.

And we have put in place a quality assurance system to allow for adult learner recognition of achievement. In this regard, the setting up of a GETC qualification for adults has been a major advancement in implementing the National Qualifications Framework.

Whilst these interventions have been implemented, it is clear that we need to do more.

I was deeply moved by Professor Eskia Mphahlele’s experiences in adult education, recounted in a recent book. He writes:

“I have come out of this disaster area (Adult education) after a teaching stint feeling deflated, my mind made up not to return. Real education is minimal, being even more desperately curriculum driven than in high school – for certificate purposes, with a hope of a pass and higher pay in the profession. We need to re-order our priorities in adult education, shift focus and emphasis. The preoccupation with helping adults to catch up in the conventional school system has to be critically reviewed, even when its curriculum has been overhauled, as we hope it will be.”[4] There are challenges around the high illiteracy rate, the need for reconceptualising ABET programmes, addressing the lack of learner success in the ABET level 4 exams, finalization of the funding model for ABET, the adequate conditions of service for ABET educators and the co-ordination of the ABET sector so that a true picture of ABET provision is gathered. I indicated in my 8 September speech at the international literacy day awards, held here in the ICC, that I would call a roundtable of ABET stakeholders and I am happy to say now that I will be calling stakeholders to a round-table on the 29 April 2005 in order to share my views as well as to discuss possible interventions.

Part of the challenge in the sector is around ensuring that we have a total picture in relation to the provision of ABET and literacy programmes.

A number of commissioned reports have been recently completed that deal with various aspects of the education system, particularly schools. However, the issues and recommendations arising from these reports are relevant to literacy and ABET.

I have recently received a report from the ministerial task team on rural education. This report raises a number of issues around the nature and quality of education in rural areas. The issues and recommendations arising from this report have implications for the provision and delivery of ABET in rural and farming communities.

When the report is published, I would urge the ABET sector to engage critically with its recommendations. I am quite certain that the type of literacy and ABET provision in rural areas needs to be revisited in the light of this report.

I am also sure my Department can learn a lot from other African countries that have been innovative in meeting the challenges of adult education in rural areas.

In conclusion, let me also indicate that I will be setting up a ministerial technical team on literacy to look into an appropriate model for large-scale delivery of literacy in South Africa.

I am convinced the textbooks published here today will contribute to this endeavour.

It is therefore my privilege to launch the textbook series: “African Perspectives on Adult Learning”.


[1] Torres, Rosa Maria, Lifelong learning in the South: Critical Issues and Opportunities for Adult Education, 2004, p. 48.
[2] Pitika P Ntuli, African Renaissance, 1999, p. 184.
[3] Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Decolonising the Mind, 1986, p 3.
[4] Mphahlele Eskia, ESKIA continued (2004), p. 208.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 6/30/2008
Number of Views: 691

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