CALA University Students Association (CALUSA)

CALUSA (Cala University Students Association) was formed in 1882. It’s origins were in it study circles that focused on collective reading and discussion of ‘the great texts’ . As Lungisile Ntsebeza describes:

“A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism. Thus begins the Communist Manifesto – and thus began the study circle in 1969 in the small town of Cala, eastern Cape. What does ‘spectre’ mean? What are the implications of ‘haunting’? Why is the spectre of communism haunting Europe? What is the context of this? Why is the text using figurative speech? Word by word the statement was explored and the meaning extracted and constructed, one word at a time, as Sobantu Mlozi taught the small group of fourteen year olds how to read a text. He functioned as their dictionary, and this study group was the beginning of what was to become the People’s United Front for the Liberation of South Africa (PUFLSA); it is also an example of one tradition of popular education.”

Now, CALUSA is an NGO working with land and agricultural issues in rural Eastern Cape. True to its roots there is still a concern with alternatives. As Ntsebeza explains, political education is “to equip youth with ideas that we would use to think about a different society”.


The purpose of CALUSA is to contribute towards building an alternative rural land – one that is not dominated by market forces but rather by the needs of rural communities through land reform, alternative agricultural production and movement building. CALUSA works to counter the devaluation of agricultural work amongst rural communities. CALUSA works towards a future formation of a youth commune engaged in education with production in Cala.

Target Participants

CALUSA works with rural communities in the Eastern Cape, such as in the Sakhisizwe and Emalahleni local municipalities.

CALUSA also partners with academic institutions such as UCT; other rural NGOs such as TCOE and with international rural networks in Brazil and Cuba.

Focus Areas

CALUSA undertakes a number of programmes that seek to improve the livelihoods of the rural poor and build an alternative model of living and working together.

Engaging local government 

The lack of democracy in rural South Africa is one of the areas that concern CALUSA e.g. unelected traditional leaders often dominate rural governance.

CALUSA works with communities to challenge undemocratic governance.

CALUSA also assists communities in reading, understanding, and analyzing local government policies and laws so that communities can decide which are right and wrong for them.

Agricultural programme

CALUSA assists small-scale farmers and communities in accessing land, developing sustainable livelihoods, and developing alternative methods of farming e.g. permaculture.

This programme is part of a broader vision of land reform and utilization of land for people’s needs rather than for the market. It is also part of a process of restoring the value and importance of agricultural work.

Movement building

CALUSA places importance on movement building, for example through leadership building amongst community organisations. CALUSA’s leadership school focuses on developing political, economic and social analyses of the country; as well as developing confidence and articulation skills.


CALUSA is aware of its limitations as an NGO without a membership base and thus focuses on building membership-based organisations. CALUSA’s approach is to assist communities in building their own movements for their own interests by developing the capacities and potentialities of community organisations and movements. This includes developing and deepening critical analyses, understandings of policies and laws and confidence as well as assisting with access to land and resources.

Tools and Processes

The process of reading line by line and explaining and discussing was the methodology of teaching and learning .

CALUSA utilizes a number of educational tools such as:

  • Community workshops e.g. on the status of traditional leaders
  • Participatory research e.g. on the role played by traditional leaders in service delivery, rural development and land administration in the Eastern Cape.
  • Leadership schools
  • Campaigning e.g. for food sovereignty
  • Learning exchange visits

View of Popular Education

The daily lived realities of rural people are the starting point for/of education. The focus of education is on praxis: education for / with production. Hence, it is clearly action-oriented and context specific. However, according to Ntsebeza education is not systematic; there is a need for a comprehensive coherent syllabus that’s clearly contextualized.

Type of organisation: 
Land & Housing