Quality ABET helps uplift the rural poor
Since the early 1990s, Adult Basic Education Training (ABET) has evolved from the goals of church groups, communities and schools into sophisticated training programmes that are helping to address illiteracy and lack of essential numeracy in South Africa. This is in addition to the important role that it is playing by equipping people with the basic life skills they need to participate in society and the modern economy.
Notably, Adult Education Training (AET) has also become a vital component of the government’s drive to uplift rural communities where low basic literacy, numeracy and knowledge continues to contribute to high levels of poverty.
ABET is unique to South Africa and differs from Adult Basic Education in the Anglosphere by also focusing on life skills training. This is opposed to only concentrating on those competencies that are required by employers to bolster production and efficiencies in the workplace.
It integrates education and training by imparting knowledge and values, while its focus on providing general instruction that improves the quality of lives of adults also supports transformation. In so doing, ABET remains a fundamental force in helping to rectify the wrongs of the past, especially the legacy left behind by an unequal educational system that was based on race.
Triple E Training is a leading provider of ABET including companies that are invested in community development and community upliftment projects in outlying areas of South Africa.
“By enrolling their own employees in skills training programmes and helping to facilitate ABET in rural areas to help the unemployed find jobs, companies are giving an enormous gift back to society. This is in addition to the benefits that they obtain from their ongoing investment into training because of a better workforce, considering that a better-skilled employee is more productive and efficient,” Marinda Clack of Triple E Training says. “The basic knowledge and skills that the rural poor have acquired through these programmes have helped them to improve their living conditions and raised their self-esteem by enabling them to play a meaningful role in society, the economy and politics. Importantly, our quality AET programmes also promote lifelong learning among rural community members – in line with the mandate of the Department of Basic Education for ABET programmes.”
A case for community development
The World Bank has warned that poverty in Africa is expected to increase from 55% in 2015 to 90% in 2030. The majority of the world’s poor will, therefore, reside on the continent in nine years’ time. This is considering that the African population grew from 278 million in 1990 to 413 million in 2015, undermining the major strides that were previously made in combating poverty on the continent, which declined from 54% in 1990 to 41% in 2015.
Meanwhile, it is estimated that almost half of South Africa’s adult population is poor.
According to Statistics South Africa, just under 50% of the population older than 18 years falls below the upper-bound poverty line (UBPL). One of the threshold points used by the South African government to measure poverty, UPBL indicates an income of only R1 183 a month. The other two threshold points include the lower bound and food poverty lines (LBL and FPL), which specify monthly earnings of between R785 and R547, respectively.
In 2015, more than 65% of South Africa’s population residing in rural areas fell below the UBPL, whereas about 25% of the population living in urban areas earn within the R1 183 a month threshold.
Poor social and economic conditions are the lead contributors to the high poverty levels in these outlying areas, where just more than 82% of extremely poor Africans are based.
Rural communities grapple with limited or, in extenuating circumstances, non-existent infrastructure, including electricity, water and sanitation, as well as transportation. This lack of essential service delivery infrastructure which hampers daily lives is being aggravated by poor education that further inhibits participation in the informal or formal economies of the country.
“Education is a critical tool for eradicating poverty and acquiring skills for sustainable development. There is ample evidence available that demonstrates the high correlation between prosperity and the level of education of a population,” Clack says. “Despite the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994, many black people residing in outlying areas remain poor. They are among the most disadvantaged and their very limited education has driven up unemployment in these communities. This is evidenced by the fact that most of the country’s rural women still depend upon welfare to sustain themselves as they are unable to provide financial support for themselves and their families. Among other challenges, this places a tremendous burden on stretched state resources.”
Poverty levels in South Africa
Multidimensional poverty measures in South Africa
|Multidimensional poverty measures (% of people)||2014|
|Monetary poverty consumption|
|Daily consumption less than US$1,90 per person||18,9|
|At least one school child is not enrolled in school||1,5|
|No adult has completed primary education||2,3|
|Access to basic infrastructure|
|No access to limited standard drinking water||8,2|
|No access to limited standard sanitation||4,7|
|No access to electricity||4,1|
Key poverty indicators
|Distribution among groups: 2014||Lower middle-income line (%)||Lower middle-income line (%)||Relative group (%)||Relative group (%)|
|Non poor||Poor||Bottom 40||Top 60|
|0 to 14 years old||51||49||51||49|
|15 to 64 years old||67||33||35||65|
|65 and older||71||29||30||70|
|Without education (16+)||40||60||62||38|
|Primary education (16+)||48||52||55||45|
|Secondary education (16+)||67||33||36||64|
|Tertiary or post-secondary education (16+)||95||5||6||94|
Education for livelihoods
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, rural women in developing countries, such as South Africa, makeup two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population and lack basic education for livelihoods.
In South Africa, for example, 52,2% of women fall below the UBPL, compared to 46,1% of males who fall within this threshold. This is according to South Africa’s Living Conditions Survey, which also shows that 74,8% of homes that are led by females fall below the UBPL, compared to the 59,3% of families headed by men that are categorised as living below this poverty level.
The gender divide is also apparent throughout the other two poverty lines, namely LBL and FPL.
Worryingly, this is a trend that has persisted in the country for more than 10 years.
One of the contributors to the scenario is the entrenchment of cultures that promote gender inequalities in these areas over many years. For example, men leave their wives at home in rural areas to take care of their children while they work in urban areas. As the only breadwinners in the family, they also exercise absolute control over family budgets.
Meanwhile, it remains a concern that preference continues to be given to educating boys at the expense of the futures of young females in many rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa. This imbeds the high illiteracy and innumeracy rates among women living in remote areas of the region.
The situation is being exacerbated by the very poor quality of schooling in underdeveloped areas, with less than adequate health, hygiene and sanitation facilities among the lead contributors towards the high dropout rate among rural females.
According to household data collected by Women Watch from 42 countries, rural girls are more likely to drop out of school than their male counterparts. Moreover, they are twice as likely to leave school than girls living in urban areas.
Share of the world’s men and women in vulnerable employment
|World||Sub-Saharan Africa||South-East Asia and the Pacific||South Asia||North Africa||Middle East||Latin America and the Caribbean||East Asia||Developed economies and the European Union||CSEE and CIS|
Equipping the rural poor with skills
Considering the extent of the challenge, governments, institutions and private sector players believe that more needs to be done to ensure the greater rollout of adult education as part of community programmes in many developing countries of the world.
This includes literacy training to develop the ability to solve problems and to use initiatives to better manage resources, in addition to imparting the skills and values people need to help lift themselves out of poverty.
The World Bank further points out that literate rural women are healthier and able to take better care of themselves and their families, while it has also witnessed a marked reduction in birth and death rates in those communities that can read and write. This further justifies the ongoing focus on raising the basic competencies of rural communities through quality ABET programmes.
“People living in these areas, especially women, are informed and have skills to share. However, limited literacy skills hinder their ability to contribute to society and the economy. Many of the people who have completed our ABET programmes are now participating in HIV/AIDS awareness and charity initiatives. This is in addition to other projects geared at protecting and uplifting the most vulnerable members of our society. Certainly, we remain proud of the role that our ABET programmes continue to play in helping to uplift the rural poor. In addition to the work that we perform in rural areas on behalf of responsible Corporate Citizens, we continue to help many individuals from these communities who contact us directly to assist them in improving their living standards,” Clack concludes.