The role of non-formal skills development programmes in improving livelihoods of marginalised learners: a case study of three FET colleges in the Durban area.
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The study examined the role of non-formal skills programmes at Further Education and Training (FET) colleges in assisting marginalized learners in their livelihoods. The high rate of unemployment and poverty in South Africa, and in Kwazulu-Natal in particular, highlights the need for non-formal programmes to be more responsive to the developmental needs of marginalized learners, and to the economy. There is a need to move away from programmes that are run in isolation, towards programmes that are more responsive, creative and holistic. A case-study of three different non-formal skills programmes from each of the FET colleges in the Durban area were used in the study. These included Coastal, Sivananda and Thekwini FETI's. The reason for choosing different programmes, was to get a broader picture of skills programmes offered at FET colleges. One of the programmes was a Welding one offered at the Swinton Road Campus of Coastal College. The second programme was the Organic Farming one offered at the Mpumalanga campus of Sivananda College, and the third programme was the Cooperatives one offered at the Asherville campus of Thekwini College. Interviews with learners comprised the primary data, while documents, observation and interviews with personnel comprised secondary data. The three different programmes provided an interesting contrast. While the Organic Farming programme and the Cooperatives were fairly new, the Welding programme had been in operation for some time. There were also differences in the design and implementation which impacted on the learners' ability to improve their livelihoods. Learners in the Organic Farming programmes for example, were technically unemployed. Yet they were producing organically grown vegetables to sustain themselves and their families. In contrast, learner in the welding programme were unable to find employment on completion of the programme. Using the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach used by international Aid agencies in developing countries as a bench mark, the programmes were examined to establish whether they were assisting their learners in developing sustainable livelihoods. What emerged was that there was a strong correlation between the design and implementation of the programme and the learners' ability to transfer skills to improve their lives. Programmes that provided support to learners aside from the actual training content tended to be more successful than programmes that focused only on training. The more a programmes incorporated the principles of SLA (responsive and participatory; learner-centred; conducted in partnerships; linking micro and macro-level activities, holistic and sustainable), the more they were able to assist learners in developing their livelihoods.