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Critical learning? an exploration of non-formal and informal learning in Freedom Park, Johannersburg.

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The dawn of democracy and its failure to deliver on the promises made necessitated a different form of engaging with power as communities ceased to ‘accept as normal a world characterised by massive inequities and the systemic exploitation of the many by the few’ (Brookfield, 2005, p. 2). A plethora of interventions operating outside the former liberation movements and seen as a ‘new’ strategy for dealing with ‘new’ issues in post-democratic South Africa have emerged. One such intervention was the Community Literacy and Numeracy Group Project (CLING) ‘a participatory action research (PAR) project, which [was] a particular form of popular adult education’ (Čubajevaitě, 2015, p. 141). Documents related to the CLING project suggest that it was inspired by the work of Paulo Freire. This study focused on the CLING Project, specifically the adult education classes, in Freedom Park, a semi-informal settlement in Johannesburg. Framed within a critical paradigm, it examined the extent to which the Freedom Park CLING Project and the adult classes embraced a Freirean philosophy and methodology. It also considered the impact the CLING Project had on the ‘political’ classes which continued after the project closed. I used snowball sampling to access learners and facilitators that were part of the CLING Project, Abahlali baseFreedom Park (the community structure involved in development in the area), and community members involved in the political classes. Data were collected through a transect walk, photovoice, interviews, focus group discussion, and observation. The findings were that there is some evidence that the CLING Project was conceptualised by its founders as a Freirean intervention, and embraced Freirean philosophy at least to some degree; although it is less clear that the Freedom Park CLING facilitators understood this to be the case. However, there is little evidence that Freirean methodology was embraced either at a macro level, or in the adult education classes. There is also no evidence that the learners experienced the Freedom Park CLING Project adult classes as being Freirean. Finally, the data suggests that the political classes are non-formal, rather than informal; and evidence related to the level of ‘self-directedness’ of learning is conflicting.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.