Community Education Programme, Centre for Integrated Post-School Education and Training (CIPSET)
The Community Education Programme started in 2013 and currently involves 26 community members (known as community investigators) from the areas directly surrounding the NMMU Missionvale Campus. There are 4 groups – Community Learning and Investigation Circles (CLICs) – one for each geographical area Missionvale, Soweto-on-Sea, Zwide 1+4 and Zwide 2 – with between 3 and 12 members. The programme uses Participatory Action Research as a starting point to facilitate the gathering of knowledge from within the group and their communities. The focus of the programme is adult education for conscientisation and community change. It provides a space for adults to learn and for CIPSET staff to practice popular education and do socially useful research around adult and community pedagogy.
It is a non-formal learning programme but due to the precarious and marginalised nature of all basic adult education in South Africa the programme is making strong links to the formal Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) sector though the local Public Adult Learning Centres (PALC). Each of the three closest PALCs are of the Community Learning and Investigation Circles.
All of the work at CIPSET, including the Community Education Programme, strives to:
- build on the experience of the people who are excluded from the labour market
- understand from their perspective what knowledges and skills they consider worthwhile learning in order to build a more equal just and sustainable society
- make explicit the global relations of power that shape education & training, the economy and society
- act in support of emerging alternatives by increasing the space for alternatives to take hold and become self-sustainable
- make explicit a new pedagogy for the basic adult education sector
CIPSET builds the following values in their work relationships:
- to make principles clear and open to critique
- to establish and maintain mutually respectful relationships
- to be non-partisan in establishing working relationships
- to go beyond mere research activities and commit to "the long haul” in relationships with communities
- to acknowledge and explore hidden and manifest sources of power in
- to offer a critical perspective
- to articulate hope and act with communities to enable social change
The Community Education Programme wants to contribute to fostering an adult education system that provides both formal and non-formal curricula that are socially useful (as determined by communities) whilst remaining critical, emancipatory and creative. In the short term the programmes hopes to build its own understanding of how society is organised, what is important in terms of education and social change, and learn by doing things collectively in order to change our world for the better.
Most of the participants are community members, particularly those involved in community activism or social organisations. There is an emphasis on young people who are disproportionately affected by unemployment. Many are members from two community based organisations: The Eastern Cape Environment Network and the Amandla Centre. The majority of participants are isiXhosa speakers, this is mostly down to the areas in which we work. The programme also aims to support and stand in solidarity with adult educators working within public basic adult education.
Community based learning for socially useful knowledge and action for emancipatory social change.
The programme forms small study groups which initially undertake participatory action research in a particular area. These groups then identify recurring or pressing issues, and by building and using popular education, critical reading and creative storytelling, help to examine and address these community issues.
Tools and processes
The initial stage has made use of transect walks, listening surveys, informal interviews, codification, photo-stories, written accounts, forum theatre, verbal story-telling, dialogue and digital stories.
A workbook has been created to help structure the learning action cycles which run over three weeks: Workshop, action/research, documenting and initial analysis.
CLIC’s can be a space to practice and explore alternative adult learning methods which can be shared with other ABET educators. Theatre can be a new space for discussing issues and exploring pedagogy with adult educators and learners. Discussions on the theme of energy and the making of the play demonstrated how energy as an ‘issue’ sits atop more entrenched social issues and at times is more of a symptom than a cause of inequality and poverty. The play was created by a group of 4 community theatre practitioners and was shared with the Community Investigators. It moved across isiXhosa and English but it also created a visual and physical language that drew the audience (Spect-actors) into the situations, helping to make a link to the themes and emotions surrounding the characters.
Understanding of popular education
- Popular/Community education builds individual and collective capacity to question, name, reflect, analyse and act in the world.
- Popular/Community education is a democratic process that takes place in groups.
Its relationships are based on co-discovery and learning, rather than dominance and control. It recognises different pathways to knowing and different forms of knowledge.
- Popular/Community education is a catalyst for liberation and social transformation, because it builds an awareness of the structural forces of power that shape our lives.
- Popular/Community education leads to collective action for social change and progressive alternatives.