An exploration of an adult education programme and how it has fostered change in participants.
Unemployment, especially youth unemployment is one of the social problems South Africa experiences today. Amongst other factors, the legacy left by apartheid continues to impact communities which were marginalised and are still vulnerable to poverty. Increasing the challenges of youth finding employment is that employers seek staff with work experience. There are in-sufficient opportunities for youth to gain such experience. Based in Shongweni, KwaZulu-Natal, a non-profit organisation, World Changers Academy (WCA) aims to empower young adults for work through life skills and leadership training courses. Their courses also help students find ways to gain valuable work experience. WCA focuses on students’ attitudes and mindsets, while also providing knowledge and skills, by focusing on the roots of problems rather than the fruits. This dissertation explores the changes which are reportedly taking place in students of the programme and factors which have influenced change in their lives. Using the framework of Transformative Learning Theory (Mezirow, 1991), the study explores the learning process and nature of change in students most impacted by the programme, to gain a qualitative insight into the change and the process of change. From an interpretive paradigm, the study makes use of case study methodology to investigate in depth, the lives of successful candidates of the programme. Multiple data sources were used to construct the case. Data collection methods used included observation; focus groups; interviews and life histories. The data analysis included using the theoretical framework in both inductive and deductive ways to explore the research questions. The study showed that, facilitated by their involvement on the programme, some students develop a strong sense of purpose and identity for their lives. They are challenged to think critically and experience a growth in self-confidence. Over time, changes in mindset and attitude are seen as changed lifestyles. Some aspects of the programme influencing change were emotional healing, trustful relationships and the authentic actions of role-models. Different ways of reflecting were observed and reflection was seen to be influential in individual change of students. The study concluded by theorizing about the catalyst for change in the South African context.