Secured, not connected: South Africa’s Adult Education system

Public Adult Learning Centres, Community Colleges, and access to basic education

  • Sandra Jane Land Durban University of Technology
  • John Aitchison University of KwaZulu-Natal


South Africa has a history of attempts to provide school equivalent education to black adults through night schools. Suppressed in the 1950s and 1960s, they resurfaced after the 1976 Soweto revolt, and in 1996 the Constitution secured adult basic education as a right. Night schools were renamed ‘Public Adult Learning Centres (PALCs)’, and seemed poised to become a powerful delivery mechanism, but continued as inadequate night schools. In 2015 the PALC system was ostensibly transformed into a community college one, but this transformation was based on the weak foundation of inadequate PALCs.

A new 2019 plan for the Community Education and Training College System includes long needed major overhauls that must be effected if adults’ right to effective and relevant education is to be finally realised.

This paper offers a history of night schools and of policy shifts, and looks at the major shifts promised in the new plan.

Research Articles