By Heila Lotz-Sisitka
There are many social learning networks active in South Africa that are focusing on a range of related nexus issues that focus on youth concerns, social justice, water and food security, poverty, biodiversity loss and climate change. Yet, little is known about t-learning processes in these learning networks. Even less is known about the multi-levelled nature of these t-learning network’s impacts at different scales, or how intersecting learning networks can drive multi-levelled change. In the South African t-learning programme, we aim to undertake t-learning research in a range of different learning networks, but also to undertake analysis across these t-learning research networks.
South Africa’s development objectives have their roots in the post-apartheid South African Constitution which includes a focus on poverty alleviation, equitable access to natural resources, sustainable utilisation of natural resources for present and future generations, and the right to an environment that is not harmful to health or well-being. However, to address poverty while addressing related new development challenges such as climate change, water scarcity, new energy futures, sustainable human settlements, loss of biodiversity and natural resources, and vulnerability to risk, urgent attention needs to be given to strengthening the learning processes and capabilities needed for achieving these development objectives. New development challenges such as climate change and water scarcity threaten to reverse development progress.
The National Environmental Management Act (No. 102 of 1998); the National Water Act (No 36 of 1998); the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (No 10 of 2004) and a host of other associated legislation introduced a people-centred approach to sustainable development in South Africa, which includes a strong focus on transformative environmental learning. The National Framework for Sustainable Development (RSA, 1997) outlines the need for South African society to focus on efficient and sustainable use of natural resources; address human needs in ways that ensure that resources needed for long term survival are not depleted for short term gain; and that socio-economic systems are appropriately embedded within a recognition of their relationship with ecosystems and ecosystem service. This rapidly emergent environmental legislative framework has particular learning and skills development needs which are technical, social and ethical at the same time, making for a complex learning environment.
A particular issue of contemporary concern in South Africa is youth capacity development and participation in education and learning processes for a sustainable future. Currently the country has 4 million out of 11 million youth that are unemployed and not in training / education (NEET). A large percentage, 64% of those currently cannot access tertiary training through regular educational pathways and there is need for alternative learning pathways, youth leadership development and youth engagement. For this reason some of the learning network in the South African t-learning case study focus on youth, youth vulnerabilities.
The challenges briefly reviewed above tend to manifest as matters of concern for local communities and organisations in a diversity of ways in rural, peri-urban and urban settings. All require social learning responses that are transformative and transgressive at multiple levels and that deal with intersecting underlying issues (Bhaskar, 1993) that face all countries in the global South: 1) Ecological destruction of the planet based on a view of nature as an exploitable object; 2) Poverty and inequality based on ongoing exploitation and accumulation of wealth; and 3) Narrow rationalities epitomised by colonial and imperialist thinking (Dussel, 1998). In all of our learning networks we will probe these three intersecting dimensions and how t-learning processes emerge within a wider frame of transforming to sustainability.
Learning Network 1: Amanzi