Struggle and compromise: A history of South African adult education from 1960 to 2001
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This article provides an overview of the history of adult education in South Africa from 1960 (when the apartheid regime crushed the main black political movements) to the end of 2001 when, after a period of painful struggle (which reached its climax in the late eighties and early nineties), South Africa was well into the second term of a democratic government. It is a history of an amazingly complex relationship between adult education and political trends (many of them foreign influenced) and with the changes in the associated social, economic, religious and cultural features of South African society. The article describes the sixties when what remained of a night school movement was closed down and rendered illegal and an “alternative” education NGO movement began (originally in support of black student activists expelled from universities); the seventies when, in spite of severe repression, there was a revival of radical literacy work and innovations in alternative educational media under the influence of a heady melange of Paris 1968, Freire’s pedagogy of the oppressed, ‘black consciousness’ and liberation theology; and the eighties with its bitter and dramatic resurgence of internal resistance associated with trades unions, NGOs, and ‘people’s education’ . The nineties saw the victory of democracy and the (so-far) lacklustre attempt to institutionalise a state system of adult basic education and training as South Africa made ethical, political and economic compromises with the new world order. The author, himself an adult education activist since 1962, provides a number of reflections on this history and the ideologies that were embedded in the discourses, actions and compromises that adult education actors, their supporters and enemies, engaged in during this period and describes some of the rethinking that a small but growing group of adult educators are beginning to articulate about a renewal of a more radical adult education tradition.