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The process of learning literacy


Stage 1 Overview

STAGE 1 Objectives: (50 hours)

By the end of Stage 1, literacy learners should be able to:

  • Write their names
  • Write some words, and short simple sentences
  • Write the date
  • Use capital letters and full-stops
  • Read some two and three syllable words
  • Read simple, short sentences

The theme in this Stage is about being an adult learner.

Learner Materials:  Picture codes, first language writing book and visual literacy pictures, literacy workbook

Key skills for learners:

  • Finger dexterity
  • Picture and shape perception
  • Letter and number shaping
  • Writing own  name
  • Writing the date
  • Word and sentence analysis
  • Word and sentence building
  • Reading and writing words and sentences
  • Using capital letters and full stops
  • Working with a book
  • Understanding comic layout

Themes: local government, traditional and modern culture

Stage 2 Overview

STAGE 2 Objectives:  (100 hours)

By the end of Stage 2, literacy learners should be able to

  • Read and write the names of other people (family, friends, fellow learners, employers)  and some places known to them.
  • Read three or more syllable words
  • Read short, simple stories with illustrations
  • Read and write new words and sentences
  • Develop and write their own simple sentences
  • Participate in organised discussions on themes of interest.

Learner Materials:  literacy workbook, picture codes

Key skills for learners:

  • Reading and writing a range of names
  • Reading and writing simple sentences with three or more syllable words
  • Discussion of situations to identify and analyse problems in everyday life
  • Reading passages of text
  • Using punctuation marks accurately

Themes: workplace issues, gender, traditional and modern medicine, child diarrhoea

Stage 3 Overview

STAGE 3 Objectives:  (100 hours)

By the end of Stage 3, literacy learners should be able to:

  • Read short paragraphs and comic strips
  • Read simplified stories, poems and dialogues
  • Write paragraphs and dialogues
  • Write letters and addresses
  • Complete a simple first language form seeking basic personal information
  • In writing, tell a story or express an opinion
  • Write answers in a simple comprehension exercise
  • Develop a popular theatre exercise to illustrate a theme of interest
  • Comment constructively/critically in writing on community issues discussed in the class, particularly HIV and AIDS
  • Show competence in the outcomes set for the ABET Level 1 examinations

Learner Materials:  literacy workbook, picture codes, mother-tongue pamphlets and posters

Themes: local government, self-reliance, domestic abuse, HIV and AIDS, road safety


Start English

This is a conversational English course of 140 hours for learners, to give them a spoken English vocabulary before they start learning to read and write English.  Operation Upgrade insists that beginner English learners should be literate in their mother tongue.

This course covers:

Greetings, my name is … How to say ‘No’
Answering questions about name, marital status, ID number Shopping talk – price, size, colour, quantity
Answering questions about personal details Telephone numbers, the ‘phone directory
Completing forms Being ill, talking to the doctor
About my family Notices, signs and labels
Saying and hearing numbers clearly Wages and payslips
Asking for help Talking about the weather
Helping others Asking and giving directions
Getting a lift, asking for leave, getting someone to repeat something said

English ABET Level 1

Outcomes: based on the National Unit Standards and Specific Performance Outcomes, also the IEB Outcomes for Level 1 Communication

Course Content:
Conversational English: greetings, understanding instructions
Basic language functions, including use of simple present and past tenses, questions and answers, sentence construction, regular and irregular verbs,
simple adjectives, word order,
Reading: simple text, with comprehension
Writing: simple sentences and paragraphs, informal letter, choosing answers for multiple choice questions
Speaking: Asking and answering questions, telling a simple story
Listening: identifying information from spoken English
Punctuation: capital letters and full stops
The English alphabet: using a telephone directory

the course is taught through the use of English Works for Level 1, a modern and up-to-date learner coursebook for adults.  Classroom methodology is highly participative.  Learners work in pairs and small groups, as well as on their own, with interesting and relevant language development tasks and games.  The activities develop their reading, writing, listening and speaking skills; language functions are introduced through usage and then consolidated. (240 hours)

English Level 2

Outcomes: based on the National Unit Standards and Specific Performance Outcomes, the IEB Outcomes for Level 2 and Operation Upgrade Outcomes incorporated in the programme.

Course Content:
Language functions: prepositions of time and place, using ‘must and mustn’t’, ‘so that’ and ‘unless’, future tense, with questions, ‘can’ and ‘able to’, direct speech, practice with past tense, using ‘have’ and ‘be’, relative clauses with which and who, simple comparative adjectives, word order.
Writing: paragraphs, simple stories, letters
Reading: stories, with comprehension. Comic strips.
Listening: dictation of simple text, picture dictation
Speaking: telling stories, reading dialogues aloud, making simple dialogues
Punctuation: reported speech, question and exclamation marks
Skills; taking information from a table, filling in forms, writing letters, giving directions

Approach: English Works Level 2 is used, with supplementary readers.  The approach is similar to that used in Level 1, although the activities have more content and are more demanding.  Classes are highly participative. (240 hours)

English Level 3

Outcomes: based on the National Unit Standards and Performance Outcomes, the IEB Outcomes for Level 3 and Operation Upgrade Outcomes incorporated in the programme.

Course Content:
Reading: pamphlets and everyday text, stories and informative text, advertisements, with comprehension questions needing full answers
Writing: stories, letters, invitations, simple reports
Speaking: making a short speech, answering comprehension questions orally, information exchange with others, dialogues
Listening: dictation, classroom instruction
Language functions:  relative clauses in sentences, asking questions about the future, using ‘he’ and ‘she’, using ‘ was’ and ‘were’, plurals (regular and irregular), ways of giving advice, following written instructions, words showing sequence, prepositions, idiomatic expressions, conjunctions, present and past continuous tenses,  irregular and regular spelling,
Skills: Map reading, finding information from text, developing a project, putting information in sequence, using measurements, constructing role plays with dialogue, self-assessment
Pronunciation: the basic vowel sounds: stresses on syllables, words which sound different to how they are spelled

Approach: The Level 3 course is based on a high level of learner participation, using activities and games in pair and group work situations, but it also requires more individual learning processes, as learners read more substantial text and produce more writing.  Learners produce project files which show progressive skill development, and actively use English outside the classroom as homework tasks. (240 hours)


Operation Upgrade believes that numeracy for adults is an essential life skill.  Our basic course for numeracy learners combines the four fundamental numeracy skills with many examples of their application in real life, including running a small business.  Our learner workbook is written in Zulu although we use the English names for numbers, because we believe that a numeracy learner should learn to work with numbers in her mother tongue, rather than battle with understanding English at the same time.

The course covers:

  • Numeracy and everyday life
  • Numeracy as an empowerment tool
  • Counting and estimating
  • The four basic calculation skills of adding, subtracting of numbers up to 1000 , multiplying and dividing; 100’s, 10’s and units; rands and cents
  • Word number puzzles from real life
  • Fractions - halves, quarters and thirds
  • Percentages - calculating 10 percent, 20%, 50% of a whole number
  • How VAT works
  • Reading a payslip
  • Reading a cash slip
  • How we use time, telling the time in clock-face and digital modes; using a calendar
  • Problem-solving in numeracy

The learners achieve the outcomes for ABET Level 1 Numeracy, in about 160 hours.

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