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Year of Establishment: 1966

Operation Upgrade’s mission is to assist social change and development in South Africa through the support and provision of adult literacy and adult basic education and training.

We work mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, the home of the Zulu people, although we will train literacy educators in other provinces.  In KwaZulu-Natal adult illiteracy is high and HIV and AIDS are prevalent.

Functions of Operation Upgrade

  • The support of adult basic education and literacy groups through literacy educator training; development and supply of low cost, relevant learning materials for literacy; class monitoring; and adult literacy project advice
  • Adult Literacy programme management
  • HIV/ AIDS education through adult literacy, including Living Positively
  • Food security through vegetable production tunnels and income-generating projects, working through adult literacy groups

Learning and teaching literacy

Operation Upgrade has been able to develop a powerful training programme for literacy educators. The learner curriculum in this programme includes human rights, gender equality, project planning, local government, workplace matters, childcare and family health, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, domestic violence and many life skills such as getting an Identity Document, using a bank, writing and posting a letter, wise buying, livelihood development, and more.  The adult learners can cover all these topics in the course of lessons in Zulu literacy, English and Numeracy.

Recent activities

  • Adult literacy educator training: Operation Upgrade trains adult educators to teach mother-tongue literacy, English and numeracy.  In 2008 we trained 343 educators, for independent literacy projects, the University of South Africa, and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education.
  • Rural Outreach into KwaNibela, where Operation Upgrade trained 18 adult literacy educators with 28 classes and over 400 adult literacy learners, in an area called KwaNibela on the edge of Lake St Lucia.  In this neglected and isolated place, which is a 250 km drive from Durban, there is neither water nor electricity.  The people are very poor, and AIDS is a major problem.  Operation Upgrade has established a food security project for all 28 groups (vegetable tunnels), an AIDS course for the educators, and a special initiative to offer AIDS education to men in this rural community, working through the Tribal Authority. The project is sponsored through JOHAP, via OXFAM Australia and supported by Rotary District 9270.  Operation Upgrade is also providing water support for KwaNibela literacy learners, through OXFAM.
  • ‘Tunnel Farming’: Food Security for poor literacy learners. Operation Upgrade assists the establishment of ‘tunnels’ (appropriate hydroponics), for
  • The Literacy against AIDS Campaign, which combined literacy and AIDS work. We have trained 297 literacy educators as volunteer HIV/ AIDS workers. They include aspects of HIV and AIDS in literacy lessons, and they train their learners as home-care givers.
  • The UNISA Project, which involves Operation Upgrade in intensive literacy methods training for over 800 UNISA students around South Africa
  • The Department of Labour Project, where Operation Upgrade has established 60 rural literacy classes in KwaZulu-Natal, with 1209 adult learners

Reaching out to other groups

  • We have assisted the Family Literacy Project to train its facilitators to develop drama and song with adult community members, to promote early childhood development.  This community motivation initiative is going well.
  • Operation Upgrade has a partner, Siphosethu Community Development Project, which works in 2 informal settlement areas in Durban. 
    This new NGO has 80 adult learners.  Operation Upgrade has been sharing skills in project and financial management with Siphosethu.
  • We work with numerous other community groups to set up initiatives in community development, for example BDS which runs a feeding and development scheme in an area called Demat, outside Durban   We have assisted in a community survey in Demat, and we work with capacity-building.
  • We have set up 8 food tunnels and 10 rainwater harvesting units for the KwaZulu Regional Christian Council in the Eshowe and Melmoth areas.

Now she can harvest rainwater from her roof
Two food tunnels in Eshowe

  • We have set up 5 tunnels for groups in Centacow, Umlazi, Lamontville, Molweni and Clermont.
  • The Steve Morris Literacy Project, with a literacy and second language programme for people living in the Durban beach area, is a project we are proud to assist.
  • The Rotary District 9270 Adult Functional Literacy Committee is a body where we have a strong partnership. So far this year we have been able to provide training for the ABET programme under the Office of the Premier, working with Rotary.  More educator training is planned for later in 2009.

Operation Upgrade’s role in the wider ADULT LITERACY community
  • Partner organisation with ProLiteracy Worldwide (New York)
  • Some years of experience working with Rotary to make adult literacy happen
  • Assistance and support to many literacy organisations in South Africa
  • Active supporter of the national Kha Ri Gude mass literacy campaign

  • The Ann Michel Award for International Innovation in Literacy (Oct. 2005)
  • The President’s Award for Adult Basic Education and Training (1996) (given by former President Nelson Mandela)
  • The UNESCO Confucius Literacy Prize (2008)

HIV and AIDS and literacy learning

The educators in training on the HIV and AIDS course make a list of the AIDS topics they want to cover in literacy lessons.  Then in groups they plan lessons on the basis outlined above.  After the course they make their own lesson plans that incorporate some of the HIV/AIDS topics.

EMSENI Community Centre

We have set up a community centre in KwaNibela, called Emseni Community Centre. (“Emseni” means Place of Kindness.) We have built two large rondavels there, one to accommodate our staff and visitors, and one for storage.

The UNESCO Confucius Prize

“The UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy was awarded to Operation Upgrade of South Africa, for the “KwaNibela Project”, and continues the Organisation’s 40-year history of commitment and change.  Website Hosted by Pro Hosting Internet Services