Message from the Chairperson
Welcome to the Workers’ College in this proud year as the College prepares to celebrate its 25th Anniversary. These years have seen the institution grow from an idea to a path breaking working class education institution that has educated and prepared thousands of workers since its inception.
It is fitting that as the College moves into it’s 25th year it announces the beginning of a new chapter in workers’ and community education, a working-class university.
Despite the triumph of the national democratic revolution and the progress this has brought, the labour movement in South Africa continues to face significant challenges following on from economic events both international and domestic. Workplace transformation continues to be a challenge and still many of our comrades face retrenchment or toil in precarious work. Women workers, union and community members continue to face exploitation and oppression in terms of both class and gender. In all of this and despite the economy growing the working class receive a reducing share of the national income. Working class communities still face many hardships related to poverty and the social ills this scourge brings with it. In engaging these and many other issues education is one of the critical weapons we must use in our struggles.
To truly promote a working class agenda means we must recognise, respect and nurture the production and sharing of knowledge that has its origin within the working class. Academic excellence must be at the centre of our efforts to create new knowledge and new ways of doing that have at their core, values such as equity, justice and social development.
The Workers’ College seeks to create an integrated and evidence based learning process that will see first the recognition and valuing of what adult working class learners hold in their experience of struggle and then support learners moving through the different levels of our National Qualifications Framework from entry levels to that of Postgraduate Study.
Despite the Third National Skills Development Strategy highlighting the importance of trade union and community education it remains under supported by our SETAs, employers and other key agencies for the development of education and skills. Most of the education capacity and resources go towards bourgeois institutions and to satisfy narrowly defined skills priorities intended to service the needs of capital accumulation.
There are those who have stood with workers education and supported its transformative potential. To the Department of Labour and the National Skills Fund who have supported the Workers’ College and its endeavours in the past years we salute your vision and efforts. To progressive funding organisations who support workers education projects we express our gratitude. To Progressive elements in the Higher Education Landscape that have supported the transformation efforts at the Workers’ College and added insight and effort to these efforts we praise and thank you. To the Higher education institutions such as the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal that has partnered with the College over the years and recognised the value this institution brings we congratulate you and urge you to deepen these relationships as the College begins to take its place alongside these centres of academic excellence.
In Kwa Zulu Natal and nationally there are signs of increasing recognition and support for the work of the College. The College is in the process of discussion with government departments in key developmental areas to partner in research and education endeavours. Recently an MOU was entered into between the Health and Welfare SETA to collaborate in bringing workers education to workers in the sector. The Workers’ College has been tasked with playing a key role in the Human Resources Development Council in the province and nationally.
To build on the achievements of the institution we call upon those in government, skills and education institutions and support organisations to stand with the Workers’ College and support working class learners.
Trade unions and community organisations are urged to make themselves aware of the new educational offerings, capacities and research services that have been introduced at the College and to take up these opportunities in order to build our working class university and support the development of workers and shop stewards.
Finally and most importantly to the Alumina of the Workers’ College and the learners of 2017, we wish to congratulate you on your achievements and decisions to better your knowledge and capacities, not in a selfish and individualistic way, but in a way that contributes to the betterment of all. We wish you success in this year of study and in the future and look forward to the contribution you will make to the realisation of social and economic justice in South Africa and the world.