Last Updated: 2012-09-10
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An NNN-SANews Special Report by Gabi Khumalo

WHITE RIVER, SOUTH AFRICA, Sept 10 (NNN-SANEWS) -- Sphiwe Mkhasibe, 28, has been given a new lease on life, thanks to Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) which has empowered him with the skills and knowledge to make a difference.

While in high school, Mkhasibe had a drug and alcohol problem, which prevented him from completing his Matricculation. Mkhasibe, who now resides in one of the rehabilitation centres in Johannesburg has been given a second chance thanks to the doctors at the centre, who saw his potential and encouraged him to enrol in an Adult Basic Education centre.

Although still on his road to recovery, Mkhasibe proudly admitted that his life has changed drastically. Not only did he complete his Level 4 at Deep City Adult Education Centre in Johannesburg, he has also discovered other talents like playing soccer and cooking for 160 residents at the centre, where he lives.

"When the facilitators at ABET centre and psychologists motivated me to go back to school and complete my studies so that I can have a brighter future, I thought I had nothing to lose, hence I decided to use the opportunity and now my life has changed for the better; not only did I receive my education, I've also started a soccer team at the rehab centre," he told SANews .

"At the ABET centre, they have encouraged me to engage in a community to become a better person and understand more about myself. I'm now a captain of our soccer team, we compete with other health institutions. ABET is not only about studying but one also gets an opportunity to acquire life skills and improve other skills like the computer lessons I help my classmates with."

Mkhasibe was among the adult learners honoured by the Adult Learning Network (ALN) during an Adult Learners Week Awards Ceremony held on Saturday evening at White River in Mpumalanga Province.

The annual awards are hosted by ALN, a non-profit organization established in 2002. ALN is a national networking structure that is involved in South Africa and globally to promote adult literacy, adult basic education and lifelong learning.

ALN works in partnership with the Department of Basic and Higher Education and Training Departments, Umalusi (the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training) and the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), among others.

The awards set the stage for the celebration of outstanding achievements of national winners. Adult learners, facilitators and deserving projects were awarded and showcased as best practice and as an inspiration to others.

Mkhasibe scooped first prize in the best learner category and challenged other adults who did not complete their education to go back to school to enrol in ABET.

"Education is for everyone, let's go back to school, whether your peers laugh at you, don't be discouraged because drugs takes you backwards and affects your brain cells, they can lead you to other diseases out there. I'm so grateful to my Lord Jesus Christ and to my teachers and principal for helping me through the programme and encouraging me to enter the competition. At first I didn't think I was going to win," said an elated Mkhasibe. He said his goal is to become an artisan since the country has a shortage of them.

Mpumalanga Province Department of Education Deputy Director-General Lucy Moyane said it was important to acknowledge that literacy was an important tool towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

She said education centres were key to eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy in the world.

The theme "Adult Learning and Skills Development for Better Life" is instrumental in articulating the key priorities of government, which are inequality, unemployment and poverty.

"As government, we acknowledge that we are a developmental state and cannot afford to focus only on mainstream schooling system without making a concerted effort to avail resources to assist in adult education that address the imbalances of the past," said Moyane.

According to the statistics, there are 3, 083 public adult learning centres, with 257 in Mpumalanga, providing adult education and training.

In order for government to move forward and implement policies, Moyane said there was a need to take stock on what they have been doing all the years, based on the quantity and quality of provision.

She said there was a need to ask basic questions like have they been able to achieve their set target, to what extent have they provided quality programmes in the centres, was the management of a required standard and whether personnel was equal to the task.

"Let's appreciate the scope of work that has been covered since the Department of Higher Education and Training was established in 2009. It had to contextualize the nature of post school education that will address the plight of the youth and adult in our country as reflected in the study conducted by the centre for higher education transformation and fellow education and training alludes that in 2007, 2.8 million youth were not in employment, education and training.

"Looking at economic meltdown and dropout rate in our schooling sector, we think there is an increase in this 2.8 million, if we don't do anything to address the plight, we are sitting in a time bomb," she warned.

ALN National Chairperson, Archie Mokonane noted that despite challenges in adult education, they were fascinated by the ability of facilitators and administrators to ensure that they deliver on the mandate of ensuring basic adult education as enshrined in the country's constitution.

"We appreciate the vital role in ensuring that we meet the MDGs, working together, we can defeat the triple problem of inequality, poverty, unemployment. This we can do with success by improving the quality of adult learning education as we together with government and private sector and organised labour and broader society ... by honouring them, others will emulate them." -- NNN-SANEWS