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ABET strengthens democracy

ABET or AET strengthens our young democracy. This is by equipping South African citizens with the skills that they need to participate in our democratic processes.

Literacy is a foundation of political literacy. This skill provides us with the ability, confidence and willingness to engage with language. In this way, we can communicate meaning in all aspects of daily life and make sense of the world around us.

Political literacy is a skill that people need to meaningfully participate in the governance of their societies. Citizens with these skills understand how their government works and the key issues facing their societies. They also possess the logical and critical thinking skills that they need to hold their governments accountable.

They are, therefore, active in the political process. Politically-literate, they are able to vote for elected representatives of government. They are also able to attend public meetings to obtain information that helps them to make informed decisions. Politically active citizens also research and analyse the resumes and credentials of political candidates. This is so that they can make learned decisions at the poll. Their research also helps them to better understand the duties and responsibilities of elected leaders. Moreover, their political participation includes providing important input into laws and regulations of the land. This is in addition to identifying plans, programmes, budgets and schedules that affect taxation.

In 2023, South Africans will head to the poll to vote in the national and provincial elections. This will be the country’s seventh democratic national election. It is an important determination. This is considering intense political crises over the past many years. There has been a sharp decline in the quality of basic services delivered by the present government. Political leadership has also failed to honour the many obligations it has made to citizens.

South Africans need ABET

There are about 4 million functionally illiterate South Africans who need ABET or AET. Without basic literacy skills, they are excluded from meaningful participation in our society. They are unable to access and critique objective political information to make informed decisions about their government. This possibly explains why there are less protests against the lack of services in rural areas of the country than there are in the urban nodes. Many rural communities also do not have access to quality basic services, such as water and sanitation; clinics; and decent schools. Yet, members of these societies continue to vote for the same leaders that have done very little to improve their lives since 1994. Illiteracy is higher among rural communities than those in other parts of the country. There are legitimate concerns that this is being exploited by political leaders who want to cling onto power.

Political participation in South Africa has been declining since our first democratic elections were held in 1994. In the 2021 provincial election, the turnout figure for voters dropped to only 66%. The gap between eligible and registered voters has grown over the years and is now among the widest in the world. Of particular concern is the drop in young South Africans who participate in the electoral process. Only 10% of the registered 90% of 18 to 19-year-olds turned out to vote in the last four municipal and national elections. Yet, there were many eligible voters in that age group. This is a direct threat to our democracy. Young South African adults account for more than 20,6 million of the population. Increasing their civic involvement and political participation is crucial to building an inclusive society and robust democratic institutions.

ABET geared at disenfranchised

ABET or AET is especially geared at disenfranchised young adults. Many of these citizens have the bare minimum in terms of foundational literacy skills. Functionally illiterate, they are unable to read for meaning and think critically and logically and, therefore, make sound decisions. This includes those that have a bearing on their wellbeing, as well as their communities and society at large.

Without these skills, they are also unable to participate meaningfully or at all in a modern economy. Those who have jobs perform low-skilled or semi-skilled work that pays the bare minimum wage. It is also volatile work that provides very little security, least of all scope for growth and development. Many more are unemployed. High youth unemployment has fuelled disillusionment with formal political and economic processes among young South African adults. These South Africans, thus, do not want to vote. According to Statistics South Africa, youth continue to be disadvantaged in the labour market. The youth unemployment rate is higher than the national average. For the first quarter of 2022, the unemployment rate for those individuals aged between 15 and 24 was 63%.

The unemployment rate for those aged between 25 and 34 years was 42,1%. Refer to South Africa’s youth continues to bear the burden of unemployment. | Statistics South Africa ( Young people who are working pay tax. Therefore, they should have a vested interest in how their contribution is being spent on service delivery by government. They will be frustrated if their tax is being squandered by corrupt or inept municipalities, for example. Participating in the electoral process enables them to voice their concerns and make a difference. When they vote, they also help to shape fiscal policy and budgeting in a manner that takes into consideration the interests of young adults.

ABET empowers our youth


ABET or AET empowers our youth with the political literacy skills that they need to be active participants in our society. This includes playing their part in upholding our democratic processes. These have come under increasing threat over the years. The validity of the constitution has been questioned, especially with regards to the right to own property. This is as dangerous populist political agendas are pursued by politicians to win votes. Widespread corruption has also largely gone unpunished. It seems that members of government are not bound by the rule of law as is the case in other democratic societies.

The importance of greater youth participation in our democratic processes cannot be overstated. According to the IEC [], countries that register low voter turnout are at risk of losing their freedom.

There are enough South Africans of voting age to bring about change for the better. As a country, we crave effective political accountability and inclusive leadership that incorporates intersectional mechanisms of governance. Young South Africans will vote for politicians or political parties that represent the change that they want to see. This, in turn, can lead to better governance systems.

By voting, young adults can ensure that political leaders represent diverse interests. This is in addition to shaping representation of young adults in leadership structures. When they vote for a political party that believes in youth representation and interests, young adults also help to ensure effective inclusion.

Young adults also make an important contribution to life’s democratic values. This can overturn authoritarian practices. Young adults are likely to become frustrated if they are not included in formal decision-making processes, potentially destabilising democratisation and fuelling conflict dynamics. This is especially so in a country such as South Africa where young people helped to force authoritarian regimes out of power.

ABET for liberated citizenship

ABET or AET teaches the skills needed for liberated citizenship, an extension of political literacy.

South Africa has one of the best constitutions in the world, advocating principles of human liberties and justice. Refer to Yet, about 4 million adults are unable to access the important information contained therein because they cannot read for meaning. Ironically, one of the basic human rights clearly articulated in this document is access to quality basic education for all. This includes ABET or AET for illiterate adults. The fact that there are so many South Africans who still cannot read or write is a blight on our democracy. More should have been done since 1994 to improve access to this basic human right that so many people are still unable to access.

Notably, the inability to access quality education is also cited by our youth as a reason for not participating in our democratic processes. This is according to research undertaken by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS). Refer to

A common sentiment among participants in the survey is that the country’s education system is failing. They believe that government is not taking them seriously. This is considering the ongoing appointment of unskilled teachers and lack of resources in public schools. They point out that this will negatively impact their ability to find jobs so that they can improve the overall quality of their lives. Participants also told ISS researchers that they were very aware of the disparities between education provided in the rural and township and urban areas. They, therefore, felt marginalised.

Many participants were concerned that, due to a poor education, they also lacked political literacy skills. This included the ability to participate in the voting process and understand the impact that corruption was having on our society at large.

Access quality ABET

These individuals must be able to access quality ABET or AET as mandated by our constitution. Adult literacy training equips them with foundational literacy skills at a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 1. These are the absolute bare minimum in terms of skills that South Africans need to function effectively. They are then able to complete adult matric to obtain a qualification at NQF Level 4.

Already-high illiteracy in the country is being exacerbated by our failing school system. South Africa ranked last out of 57 countries that were assessed in the 2021 Progress in International Literacy Study. It tested the reading ability of 400 000 students globally. The findings indicate that illiteracy among South African children increased from 78% in 2016 to 81% in 2021. These South African children could not read for comprehension in any of the country’s 11 official languages. Refer to

Without sound foundational skills, many of these learners will, inevitably, drop out of basic education because they struggle with their academics. According to, close to 3% of 15-year-olds and nearly 9% of 17-year-olds dropped out of school in 2021.

Experts agree that improving the political literacy of a country’s citizenry starts at school. Children should be provided with a minimum offer of curriculum-based citizenship and political education throughout school. Policymakers should also facilitate regular political contact between elected and unelected political actors and school students of all ages. Moreover, school administrators should encourage regular elections for their school council. This is in addition to organising educational trips to political institutions and allow students to partake in decision making about school life. This seems to be a tall call for many of our public schools that are struggling to merely teach children how to read for meaning.

ABET teaches critical thinking

ABET or AET teaches the basis of critical and logical thinking, namely literacy and numeracy.

This is especially important in this information age that also requires discerning between real and fake news that is shared widely.

The ability to critically analyse and evaluate news content is also known as news literacy. It is a vitally important skill of modern citizenship and requires an ability to read for comprehension. This information is then analysed to formulate an informed opinion that can be acted upon. Some experts even argue that democracy depends on the ability to separate fact from fiction. This is considering the influx of fake news that has helped to create an increasingly polarised political climate. The situation is exacerbated by a marked increase in mistrust in traditional media. Add to this a general lack of shared understanding about what constitutes reliable news sources.

More people are relying on digital channels of communication for their news. While effective in the quick dissemination of information, they also facilitate the rampant spread of uncorroborated or incorrect information. They have even spread hate speech that has led to conflict in some countries.

For example, disinformation helped to fuel the widespread social unrest and anarchy that pursued in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal in July 2022. The tragic event led to deaths, injury and damaged property. For example, a fake tweet of prisoners on a hunger strike to protect former president, Jacob Zuma, went viral. False WhatsApp messages were also used to, promote, encourage and incite violence. One such message showed a fake letter of apology by the Venda nation for the mistreatment of Zuma by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Other posts were more brazen. One by Real411 encouraged its audience to “burn everything, forces. President Zuma was sent to jail by thugs in robes.”

A leading ABET provider

Triple E Training is a leading ABET or AET provider.

Our adult literacy training equips individuals with the skills that they need to think logically and critically. They understand what they have read or been shown, and able to build on that knowledge. This skill, in turn, enables them to improve their lives.

German theatre practitioner, playwright and poet, Bertolt Brecht, described political illiteracy as the “worst illiteracy”. “He doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events. He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions.”

Learn more about Triple E Training and our adult literacy and numeracy training for employees and community members.

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Unlock the Full Potential of Your Employees. Leave your details & our team get back to you.

Note: Please be assured that all personal data submitted is handled with the utmost confidentiality & will only be used for the purpose of addressing your inquiries.