Umgeni Water ABE: a case study on the implementation of an adult basic education programme within a workplace environment : 1989-1996.
The water authority Umgeni Water, has run an adult basic education (ABE) programme from 1989-1996. During 1989 and 1990 Stephen Camp initiated an ad hoc pilot programme for 42 learners using Operation Upgrade. His successor, Rosemary Ward, co-ordinated a planned in-house pilot during 1991 and 1992 which reached 50 learners. She was followed by Kim Weyer, who launched a company wide initiative with the aid of the ABE consultants, BESA, and implemented an ABE policy, forum and data base. Finally from 1994, Sally Frost consolidated a programme catering for 342 learners and run by five full time ABE facilitators. It was aimed at those of the 578 unskilled workers at Umgeni Water who were illiterate. Materials used were increasingly in-house and learners were entered for the external Independent Examinations Board examinations. Evaluation of the programme in 1996 revealed that learning was occurring, though at a much slower and more individually erratic rate than predicted. Overall the programme was considered successful. From a case study of Umngeni water experience a generic model for ABE programme implementation has been developed, applicable to many workplace environment. In the case of Umgeni Water, implementation vision was grounded in educational/social responsibility, productivity and public relations motives. Company funding enabled implementation. Guiding principles for programme implementation included the acquisition of securely employed, high calibre staff / leadership, a directed, demand driven approach, an ABE policy, and ongoing stakeholder involvement and management support. Umgeni Water's production environment was catered for, learner needs were met, sufficient budget provided, and the programme evaluated. Implementation ingredients interacted with one another and often occurred simultaneously. Independent influences affected smooth programme implementation at Umgeni Water. Positive influences included the existence of a demand for English within the organisation and the perception of external pressure to provide. Negative internal influences centred around production demands. The impact of Umgeni Water's big business environment, and of its interaction with internal ABE stakeholders and the external ABE world, were ambiguous. These contextual dynamics were either accounted for, accommodated or harnessed. One can conclude that given the correct enabling factors, ABE can be successfully implemented within a workplace environment. If certain guiding principles are followed, and independent contextual influences accounted for, programme goals and targets for functional literacy can be achieved.