Centre for Adult and Continuing Education (CACE), University of Western Cape

The Centre for Adult and Continuing Education (CACE), established at UWC in 1985, was the first department of adult education at a Historically Black University. It prioritised adult education, which meant training, research, networking and support for adult educatorswho were located within poor, working class communities and linked to the democratic movement. CACE was part of building adult education as a legitimate field of study. CACE was instrumental in developing the first popular educational methodologies and training materials on gender equity and anti-racism. Innovative learning methodologies were also developed to support the development of community based, rural facilitators.


CACE aimed to:

§  Build and extend adult education for a non-racist, non-sexist democratic society;

§  Train adult educators formally and non-formally;

§  Provide resources for adult, community and development educators;

§  Support research;

§  Publish material to further the above aims.


Shirley Walters, the founding director, describes that the development of CACE provided a base from which to train adult educators and popular educators. A number of different courses, including more formal certificate programmes for people in the rural areas, were run. CACE developed materials for adult education but with popular education infused within the principles and methodologies of the materials. CACE supported study groups in the rural areas and the groups would come to the university every two months. CACE tried to do adult education in a grounded, political way. For example, one of the subjects was contextual studies in which the aim was to help people understand the political economy of the world in which we live and then link it to activism and adult learning theory.


Outside of the formal certificate programmes, CACE also ran a lot of popular education workshops, particularly on anti-racism and gender equity during the period of transition in South Africa as part of preparing South Africa for a democratic society, e.g. Gender, Development and Power: Some issues and methods fro gender trainers (1993)


CACE established a resource centre, which became one of the few specialist libraries for adult education. CACE Publications developed and produced accessible books and materials for adult educators, ranging from popular education handbooks and conference proceedings to research findings and workshop reports.


Some of the popular materials and books that CACE developed and published include:

§  The Story of the Struggle for Democracy: within One community Organisation in Cape Town in the 1980s. This booklet was written for members of community organizations struggling to understand what democracy means inside their own organizations.

§  The Struggle for Democracy: A Case Study of Community Organisations in Greater Cape Town from the 1960s to 1988. This publication was part of the Community Organisation Research and Education (CORE) Project, which aimed to develop a database of community organizations and stimulate reflection on community organizations and organising, and the historical context in which they operated.

§  Gender in Popular Education: Methods for Empowerment.

§  Globalization, adult education and training: impacts and issues.

§  People’s Education: An Examination of the Concept.

§  What is People’s Education: An Approach to Running Workshops.

§  On Our Feet: Taking Steps to Challenge Women’s Oppression: A Handbook on Gender and Popular Education Workshops. This classic popular education handbook focuses on gender oppression and was written mainly for women in an attempt to assist women to challenge the gender bias in organizations and to create a network of adult or popular educators who actively challenge gender oppression.


Much of the popular educational work was supported with anti-apartheid funding from organisations like the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). With the transition to a democracy, funding dried up and CACE’s work focused on professional development of adult educators at various levels. Innovative professional development programmes continue to be developed. An example of this is an award-winning on-line Masters programme in Adult Learning and Global Change which was started in 2001 in association with partners, University of Linkoping, Sweden, University of British Columbia, Canada and University of Technology, Australia.


In 2014, CACE was officially disestablished and the adult education programmes are now part of the new Institute for Post-School Studies. 

Document Type: 
Conversations with Educators