Over the last 12 months, SACAI has enjoyed the synergy created from the merger with Benchmark Assessment Agency (BAA). BAA brought its expertise to create a division that focusses on Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) within SACAI. Cross pollination on the conduct and administration of examinations has also been realised where challenges, lessons learnt, and interventions (improvements) have been shared among the two divisions (ABET and NSC) to maintain the credibility of assessments offered by SACAI.
ABET was severely affected in 2020 due COVID-19 lockdowns. The majority of ABET candidates come from various industry sectors ranging from mining and construction to manufacturing. These are employed individuals that have been given a second chance through the organisations they work for. They can now embark upon a learning journey on how to read and write, and eventually achieve an NQF level 1 qualification. This qualification is equivalent to a grade 9 qualification and is presented in the form of a certificate issued by Umalusi.
The closure of some companies, retrenchments and cutting down of training budgets severely affected the numbers of candidates that were registered to write SACAI ABET examinations. Examination registrations for ABET are done either directly by the companies that run ABET programmes, or indirectly through an ABET Training Provider contracted to assist the company with ABET training material and facilitation services.
There are also other interventions of ABET that come in the form of community projects, either funded by a specific SETA or an organisation (predominantly mines). Unemployed adults within these communities are invited to attend ABET classes to learn how to read and write, and formalise their education. These community projects have proven to be a success as a number of these community members are offered employment by these organisations upon the completion of their ABET programme.
ABET has always had potential of turning around the South African Literacy rate and allowing those that could not read and write a second chance to add value to their lives. Improving literacy allows candidates to be able to interpret their payslips, read religious texts, help their children with homework and being functional at work by conceptualising data presented to them.
Despite the benefits mentioned above, ABET programmes still face challenges of funding by some of the SETAs and organizations that have decided to scale down on their training budgets. Moreover, ABET Level 4 (NQF Level 1) is often confused with NQF Level 4 (Matric) among some candidates. These candidates often feel cheated as they thought they had accomplished a Matric qualification which would improve their chances of promotion or employment elsewhere.
Nevertheless, SACAI appreciates the steps taken thus far by the various companies within the industry sector to ensure that their employees (ABET candidates) are safe, which has resulted in candidates going back to the training rooms to resume their ABET classes to be ready to sit for examinations. The current trend of ABET candidates resuming with examinations resembles that of the pre-COVID era. Therefore, SACAI expects a full recovery of ABET training nation-wide in 2022 and 2023.