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Operation Upgrade, contracted by Project Literacy, is one of the partners tasked with rolling out the Department of Labour Project in KwaZulu-Natal. We set out to establish and administer 60 rural adult classes with a combined number of 1200 adult learners. The initial phase of the Department of Labour Project began in September 2008 with the recruitment of 14 educators in Hlabisa, 6 Educators in Nongoma and 5 educators in Melmoth.

In October 2008, we recruited a further 35 educators in the nodal areas of the eThekwini region.

The Project provides adult classes to 1200 learners in two learning areas:

• 900 learners in Level 1 English and Numeracy;
• 300 learners in Level 2 English and Numeracy.


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.

Operation Upgrade is an established non-government organisation with a history which dates back over forty years to 1966, when it was founded.  The story is one of commitment and perseverance, struggle and change, and the help of many people and supporting organisations along the way.

Our Mission

Operation Upgrade has four main functions:
  • The support of adult basic education and literacy groups through literacy educator training, the development and supply of low-cost reading materials, literacy class monitoring and adult literacy project advice.
  • Adult literacy program management
  • HIV and AIDS education through adult literacy
  • Food security through vegetable tunnels and water support, working through adult literacy groups
  • Water support

Recent activities

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.

Rural Development

Operation Upgrade has been working in the KwaNibela area, north of Hluhluwe, since 2004, with help from Oxfam Australia and Rotary District 9270 Clubs.   Our work has been to support HIV and AIDS prevention and management, food security, income generation and water harvesting for the rural people of the area.  We do this work through a structure of adult literacy classes which we establish and support.

We now have 50 adult literacy and AIDS educators, 800 literacy learners, a thriving HIV and AIDS education and support programme, and a food security programme developing vegetable growing.  We have a spreading livelihood development programme, including concrete block-making, literacy vegetable gardens and tunnels, and leather work. Our KwaNibela Project is supported by Oxfam Australia. In 2008 we were awarded an international prize for the KwaNibela Project, from UNESCO.
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We are preparing to train over 900 UNISA Diploma students in methods of teaching adult literacy, in Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape later this year. This will be the largest number of students that we have trained for UNISA in any of the 10 years of our partnership! 650 educator guides must be printed …

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