Many adults and youth have not completed their formal education due to the many and varied challenges that beset South Africa. There are as many adults and youth requiring education as there are children in school, yet their needs are not adequately addressed or even considered as important.
Why adult education and providing second chances should be an important national priority:
— Adults, and some youth, are parents. Parents are crucial in the support and development of their families as well as their children’s education. We have an education crisis, how much could have been resolved if parents were better educated and involved in the education of their children?
— Adults are part of the work force. Skilled and educated workers have a much better understanding of their role in the economy. They understand systems and relationships if they are better educated and informed. How much stronger could our economy be if workers were better educated? How many more people could be employed if they had the requisite skills needed, including a good basic education?
— Adults and youth are part of communities. The development of communities is vital if we are to have a stable and democratic society. Adults and youth vote, create or manage conflict, engage with each other, support community initiatives, act as monitors in their environment regarding crime, health issues, child and gender abuse and family care. How much healthier would our communities be if they had learning opportunities, both formal and non-formal ones, where they examined their situations, determined the actions needed and felt empowered to address the issues?
— Although education does not guarantee employment it gives greater access. It also enables people to apply for employment or to participate in training programmes, register at FET colleges or university or gain promotion at work if already employed. Many people who left school with an incomplete education find in later life that they cannot be promoted or attend training courses because they do not have the requisite matric certificate.
The present situation, whereby a properly supported and recognised adult education system is not in place in South Africa, is hampering our progress to become a skilled and developmental society.
What Share is doing:
Over the 21 years of its existence SHARE has developed a system to try and address the needs of adult and youth who desire to continue their education and redress the poor educational system in which they found themselves.
Among literacy and other courses we developed classes offering ABET Level 4 (the equivalent of Grade 9) and matric. Both courses are assessed through the national education department’s examination process, moderated and marked externally and have the certificates necessary to prove competence.
Working in the Helderberg basin around the Somerset West area, we see very high school drop-out rates. Various reasons for this can be named, such as discipline problems, bad school attendance record, big classes, social problems and learning disabilities. Annually we enroll between 25 to 40 students for the Level 4 course, but we also hope to pilot a non-formal popular education programme to draw youth back into a learning environment without the pressure of formal exams as we have seen a number of our students drop-out of this course (for the second time) because they cannot cope academically.
The demand and need for matric studies continues to overwhelm the centre, there have however been many challenges in offering this course. The Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Blade Nzimande extended the old matric curriculum until 2014, but a number of provisos were put to learners, such as age limits and previous registration. Even though the Department does not want to take new learners, people continually come to register at Share to try and complete the qualification. We encourage them to register directly with the Department, or to write to the Head of Education to illustrate to the Department the needs of adult learners and the demands experienced by adult education centres.
We have also appealed the limitations set on the matric course and always endeavour to give learners the best opportunities for their development. Last year (2011) a number of learners went on to tertiary and further education studies after they completed the matric course, as did a group the previous year. This after it was said that adults couldn’t pass their matric in one year part-time! Many adults and youth only need an opportunity to show their mettle and they can achieve much. This year we are offering learners the following 6 subjects: Afrikaans First Language, English Second Language, Physiology, Travel & Tourism, South African Criminal Law and Introduction to Criminology.
Our lessons learned and best advice for other centres and individuals who would like to get involved in offering adult education and second chances for school drop-outs:
— We employed educators who are not only competent but passionate and dedicated, who understand the needs of adults and youth as well as their challenges in studying at night, part-time.
— Given that we offer night classes in an area where there are few options in terms of public transport, our students needed a transport system to allow them attend classes regularly. We therefore developed an intensive taxi system that offers learners the opportunity to travel safely to and from class.
— It is vital to have good management and financial support. We have established strong and accountable management together with all the legal requisites of the non-profit and non-governmental sector.
— The ethos of SHARE is to be learner centred, to be caring, to help people develop their own competency and confidence and not to be fearful of the unknown. This applies to staff as well as to learners. We have always strived to encourage learners to understand the possibilities each one of them holds.
— We network with a range of other bodies and have always been willing to share knowledge, ideas and processes, even resources.
In conclusion, a good quality, responsive system of further learning and education for adults and youth will be needed for a long time in South Africa, although lifelong learning should always be part of a country’s approach to the development of its citizens. All people should be on a pathway of continuous learning, whether it be for new employment opportunities, promotion possibilities or simply for the pure pleasure of growing their minds. SHARE trusts that with the development of the Green Paper on post school education that the national Minister of Education will ensure that a new process will be enacted upon which will see the implementation of a true adult education and training sector, one that will truly serve the needs of the many communities and individuals within South Africa.
–Based on a learning brief prepared by Share
301 Victoria Centre
Somerset West 7130