The Thokozani support groups' contribution to community learning : five life histories around a case.
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The generation and preservation of community knowledge have emerged as key factors in how rural communities deal with the consequences and ramifications of HIV/AIDS. Community-Based Organisations (CBOs) are responding to the disease and have a significant role to play in strengthening community education. The Thokozani Support Group is a community-based organisation (CBO) operating in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal, a rural town that was once the backdrop of a bitter and bloody political war. The town is now characterised by high levels of unemployment, widespread poverty and a spiralling HIV/AIDS epidemic. Many of Thokozani's members are people living with AIDS and they undertake volunteer community work involving outreach and education as well as home-based care. This research takes the form of a case study with its focus on the Thokozani Support Group's contribution to community learning. Anchored in a qualitative paradigm, the case study is bimodal in that it utilises both the life history and photovoice methodologies. The data, gathered from semi-structured in-depth interviews as well as participant interpretations of photovoice material, is approached and examined against the conceptual framework of community learning theories as espoused by Foley (1999) and Wenger (1998), and, in particular, examines issues and concepts including communities of practice, learning in social action, informal, non-formal and incidental learning. The research outcome provides a detailed understanding of how the Thokozani Support Group contributes to community learning in Richmond, which feeds into the broader discourse on the role and challenges faced by rural CBOs responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.