New social movements in South Africa could play a prominent role in mobilizing the communities to reflect critically and address the repercussions of the neo-liberal agenda which manifests itself in perpetual exclusion of under-educated adults and provision of poor quality education.
Few studies especially from the perspective of the activists leave a potential research area of a very interesting phenomenon of how people learn while struggling for social justice. Therefore this article based on a single multi-site case study on a social movement cohering around literacy issues in Gauteng, South Africa, aims at answering, what forms of learning and education the social movement encompassed, how did the group conscientization occur and what are the individual transformations.
Semi-structured interviews and a focus group discussion were held with 13 learnersactivists and 2 adult educators. By applying Mezirow’s individual transformation and Freirean group conscientization models the analysis of primary and secondary data, revealed that the engagement in the social movement challenged and changed learnersactivists’ understanding of educational status within their respective communities. This in turn led to transformative action addressing the problems identified. On the individual level, some learners-activists became more tolerant and willing to cooperate with those of different political ideologies, able to tap into community resources. Finally, the potential of social movements as adult learning environments are outlined.
Aitchison, J., 2003a. Struggle and compromise: a history of South African adult education from 1960 to 2001. Journal of Education, 29, pp.123-178.
Aitchison, J., 2003b. Brak!- vision, mirage and reality in the post apartheid globalisation of South African adult education and training. Journal of Education, 31. pp.47-74.
Aitchison, J., 2004. Lifelong learning in South Africa: dreams and delusions. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 23(6), November- December, pp.517-544.
Baatjes, I., 2002. The new knowledge-rich society: perpetuating marginalisation and exclusion. Proceedings of the International Conference on technical and Vocational Education and Training. Developing skills fore the new economy, 17 to 19 October 2002, Winnepeg, Manitoba, Canada, 17-19 October 2002. Available at: [Accessed 26 February 2011].
Baatjes, I., 2008. Adult basic education and training. In: Kraak, A. and Press, K., eds., Human resources development review 2008. Education, employment and skills in South Africa. Cape Town: HSRC press.
Baatjes, I., 2010. Where is the public outcry?, in Mail and Guardian, 2010, November 12. Available at: [Accessed 24 February 24].
Baatjes, I. and Mathe, K., 2004. Adult basic education and social change in South Africa, 1994 to 2003. In: Chisholm, L. ed., Changing class: Education and social change in post-apartheid South Africa, HSRC press. Available at: [Accessed on 10 January 2011].
Ballard, R., Habib, A., Valodia, I. and Zuern, E., 2005. Globalization, marginalization and contemporary social movements in South Africa. African Affairs, 104(417), pp.615- 634.
Benjamin, N., 2004. Organisation building and mass mobilisation. In: McKinley&Naidoo, guest eds., Development update. Mobilizing for change. The rise of the new Social Movements in South Africa, 5 (2), November 24, Johannesburg: Interfund, pp.79- 93.
Bird, A., 1984. The adult night school movements for blacks on Witwatersrand 1920- 1980. In: Kallaway, P., ed., Apartheid and education. The education of black South Africans. Johannesburg: Ravan press.
Brookfield, S., D., 2005. The power of critical theory. Liberating adult learning and teaching. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.
Bryman, A., 2004. Social Research Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press. CERT, 2010. Annual report 2010. University of Johannesburg.
Creswell, J.W., 1998. Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Creswell, J.W., 2007. Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Crowther, J., Martin, I. and Shaw, M., eds., 2007. Popular education and social movements in Scotland today. NIACE, UK.
Desai, A. and Pithouse, R., 2004. ‘But we were thousands’: dispossession, resistance, repossession and repression in Mandela park. Journal of Asian and African studies, 39, pp.239-269
Etzo, S., 2010. ‘The unfinished business of democratization’: struggles for services and accountability in South African cities. Democratization, 17(3), pp.564-584.
Foley, G., 1993. The neighbourhood house: site of struggle, site of learning. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 14 (1), pp.21-37.
Foley, G., 1998. Clearing the theoretical ground: elements in a theory of popular education. International Review of Education, 44 (2/3), pp.139-153.
Foley, G., 1999. Learning in social action: a contribution to understanding informal education. Zed Books, London in association with IIZ-DVV, Bonn.
Foley, G., 2001. Radical adult education and learning. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 20 (1/2), January- April, pp.71-88.
Freire, P., 1972. Pedagogy of the oppressed. London: Penguin books.
Freire, P., 1985. The politics of education: culture, power and liberation. New York: Macmillan.
Freire, P., 2004. Pedagogy of hope. Reliving pedagogy of the oppressed. Continuum, New York.
Gadotti, M., 1994. Reading Paulo Freire. New York: State University of New York Press.
Greenberg, S. and Ndlovu, N., 2004. Civil society relationships. In: McKinley&Naidoo guest eds., Development update. Mobilizing for change. The rise of the new Social Movements in South Africa, 5 (2), November 24, Johannesburg: Interfund.
Hart, M.U., 1990. Liberation though consciousness raising. In: Mezirow, J. and associates: Fostering critical reflection in adulthood. A guide to transformative and emancipatory learning. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass publishers.
Heaney, T.W. and Horton, A.I., 1990. Reflective engagement for social change. In: Mezirow, J. and associates, Fostering critical reflection in adulthood. A guide to transformative and emancipatory learning. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass publishers.
Hopfer, C., 1997. Empowering adult education in Namibia and South Africa during and after apartheid. International Review of Education, 43(1), pp.43-59.
Kane, L., 2001. Popular education and social change in Latin America. LAB, UK.
Kha Ri Gude information. Available at: [Accessed 15 May 2011].
Kovan, J.T. and Dirkx, J.M., 2003. ‘’Being Called Awake’’: The Role Of Transformative Learning In The Lives Of Environmental Activists. Adult Education Quarterly, 53(2) February, pp.99-118.
Lovett, T., Clarke, C. and Kilmurray, A., 1983. Adult education and community action. Radical forum on adult education series. London: Croom Helm.
Madlingozi, T., 2007. Post- apartheid social movements and the quest for the elusive ‘new’ South Africa. Journal of Law and Society, 34(1), pp.77-98.
Martin, I., 2007. Introductory essay: popular education and social movements in Scotland today. In: Crowther, J., Martin, I. and Shaw, M. eds., Popular education and social movements in Scotland today. London: NIACE.
Mayo, P., 1999. Gramsci, Freire and adult education. Possibilities for transformative action. New York: Zed books.
McKay, V., 2007. Adult basic education and training in South Africa. Review of Adult Learning and Literacy. A Project of the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy, NCSALL, South Africa, Volume 7, pp.285-310. Available at: [Accessed 26 February 2011].
Merriam, S.B. and Caffarella, R.S., 1999. Learning in adulthood. A comprehensive guide. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass publishers.
Merriam, S.B., Caffarella, R.S. and Baumgartner, L.M., 2007. Learning in adulthood. A comprehensive guide. 3rd edition. New York: John Wiley& Sons, Inc.
Mezirow, J., 1981. A critical theory of adult learning and education. Adult Education, 32(1), Fall, pp.3-24.
Mezirow, J., 1990a. How critical reflection triggers transformative learning,. In: Mezirow, J. and associates, Fostering critical reflection in adulthood. A guide to transformative and emancipatory learning. San Francisco: Jossey - Bass publishers.
Mezirow, J., 1990b. Conclusion: toward transformative learning and emancipatory education. In: Mezirow, J. and associates, Fostering critical reflection in adulthood. A guide to transformative and emancipatory learning. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass publishers.
Mezirow, J., 1991. Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass publishers.
Mezirow, J., 1997. Transformative learning: theory to practise. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 74, summer, pp.5-12.
Naidoo, P. and Veriava, A., 2005. Re-membering movements: trade unions and new social movements in neoliberal South Africa. In: From local processes to global forces. Centre for civil society. Research reports: 2005, Vol. 1.
Newman, M., 2000. Learning, education and social action. In: Foley, G., ed., Understanding adult education and training. 2nd edition. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin.
Rocha, E.M., 1997. A Ladder of Empowerment. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 17 (31).
Rogers, A., 1992. Adults learning for development. London: Cassell.
Rule, P., 2006. “The time is burning”: The right of adults to basic adult education in South Africa. Journal of Education, 39, pp.113-135.
Sen, A., 1999. Development as freedom. Oxford: Oxford University press.
Scheyvens, R. and Leslie, H., 2000. Gender, ethics and empowerment: dilemmas of development fieldwork. Women’s Studies International Forum, 23(1), pp.119-130.
Socialist Party of Azania (SOPA) information. Available at: [Accessed 1 May 2011].
South African statistical data. Available at: [Accessed 16 May 2011].
Taylor, E.W., 1997. Building upon the theoretical debate: a critical review of the empirical studies of Mezirow’s transformative learning theory. Adult Education Quarterly, 48 (1), Fall, pp.34-59.
The World Bank statistical data, on South Africa. Available at: [Accessed 20 March 2011].
Torres, C.A., 2005. Participatory action research and popular education in Latin America. In: McLarren, P. and Giarelli, J.M., eds., Critical theory and educational research. New York: State University of New York Press.
United Nations, 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Available at: [Accessed 7 March 2011].
UNESCO, 2000. The Dakar Framework for Action. Education for All: Meeting our Collective Commitments. Adopted by the World Education Forum. Dakar, Senegal, 26-28. April 2000, Paris: UNESCO. Available at: [Accessed 6 March 2011].
UNESCO, 2010a. Global report on adult learning and education. Available at: [Accessed 6 March 2011].
UNESCO, 2010b. Progress towards the EFA goals, chapter 2 in Reaching the marginalized. Education for All global monitoring report 2010, Paris. Available at: [Accessed 7 March 2011].
Vally, S., 2007. From people’s education to neo-liberalism in South Africa. Review of African Political Economy, 34(111), pp.39-56.
Vally, S., 2009. Education: from crisis to national disaster. Amandla!, 8, June/ July, 2009.
Walter, P., 2007. Struggle for the Clayoquot Sound Rainforest Adult Learning in New Social Movements: Environmental Protest and the Struggle for the Clayoquot Sound Rainforest. Adult Education Quarterly, 2007, 57 (3) May, pp.248-263.
XE currency conversion information. Available at: [Accessed 7 June 2011].
Yin, R.K., 2003. Case Study Research: Design and Methods, Thousand Oaks: Sage.