As many Cape Town adults who did not have the privilege of completing their school education watched their children go back to school last month, the City would like to encourage them to also further their own education, as it is never too late to learn.

Over the past two decades, literacy programmes have been presented at some City libraries to offer adults an opportunity to further their education. These literacy programmes have empowered hundreds of people across the Cape Metropole to not only be better candidates for work opportunities, but to help them in their everyday tasks. The Library and Information Services Department has facilitated 564 literacy sessions between July 2010 and December 2010 alone.

“We would like to encourage adults to ask staff at their local libraries at which libraries in their area classes are being facilitated, and to join these classes to see how this will change their lives,” said Councillor Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services.

According to Herron, part of the Department’s objectives are to support lifelong learning to serve the information, educational, recreational and cultural needs of the citizens of Cape Town. A need was identified to assist with adult literacy in the city. Where a particular need has been identified by the local library, the library has pursued and identified partnerships to enable the facilitation of these programmes. The Department supports these programmes by providing, amongst others, learning materials and the necessary space in which classes can be held.

“Initially the learners were mostly older people who just wanted to learn how to manage their banking affairs and sing hymns in church. Today the learner profile includes young people wanting to improve employment opportunities as well as senior citizens wanting to help their grandchildren with their homework,” said Herron.

Herron added that several learners that attend literacy classes have used their newly acquired skills to further their studies at FET colleges. “At the Sea Point Library, foreigners join the classes to learn to speak and read English. A student from Goma, who worked as a security guard and never missed an English lesson, went on to get his master’s degree in economics,” said Herron.

At the Milnerton Library, the Adult Learners Centre aims to teach disadvantaged adults the basic skills of reading, writing and how to communicate successfully in English. The learners come from many different cultures and languages, including Xhosa, Russian, French, Portuguese and Chinese.

At Delft South Library, the facilitators of the programme are excited about 10 extra computers that will be available at the facility this year on which the learners will be able to improve their computer skills while taking part in the literacy programme. Their two most successful learners were 70 and 43 years of age respectively. Both, who were totally illiterate when they first came to the library, can now read and write and also sign their own signatures.

Adult Basic Education Training classes are also offered at the Macassar Library for a community in which many people never had the opportunity to go to school, or had to leave school early to work and support their families. Classes were first started at this library 1994 and since then approximately 30 have furthered their education at the centre. The learners at this library are given certificates at the end of each year to reward them for their hard work. The facilitators also take them to a restaurant at the end of the year that they can experience what it is like to order for themselves, because they can read the menu.

Ninnie Steyn, the City’s Director of Library and Information Services, encouraged adult learners from the community to ascertain from their local library where literacy programmes are facilitated by libraries in the city, in support of their need for further development, adding that staff are doing their best to help learners further their education.

“Despite constraints, deeply gratifying work is being done at libraries through staff’s commitment and passion for the development of our communities. When one hears these stories of how we have assisted in making a difference in people’s lives, it is a great incentive to work even harder towards our goal as librarians – to serve our communities and to either provide, assist or facilitate programmes to meet the informational, educational, recreational and cultural needs of the community,” Steyn said.

Issued by: Communication Department, City of Cape Town


Media enquiries: Cllr Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services, City of Cape Town,

Tel: 021 400 1298 or Cell: 082 518 3264

Ninnie Steyn, Director: Library and Information Services, City of Cape Town, Tel: 021 400 3782 or Cell: 084 211 2119