John Aitchison has played a significant role in adult education in South Africa, by leading research into adult education, developing adult education policy at both national and provincial levels, and not least by keeping adult basic education on the political agenda through activism and critique when necessary. His contribution to the field was recognised in December 2008 he was inducted into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame in a ceremony in Budapest.
John retired at the end of 2007, having been Director of the Centre for Adult Education of the University of Natal (Pietermaritzburg) from 1981 to 1999. He served as Head of the School of Education, Training and Development from 1999 to 2002. He became the first head of the new School of Adult and Higher Education in December 2004, a position he held until his retirement. His work in research and policy development continues.
John is also well-known for his activism against apartheid. He was banned and restricted from 1965 to 1976 for working to expose forced removals by the apartheid government in rural areas. He remains a fierce critic of injustice, and is known for his strong commitment to education and non-governmental organisation (NGO) development in the region. John has been active in a number of human rights and rural development NGOs, such as the Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA), and the Community Agency for Social Enquiry (CASE) – a national social research organisation that did major work on "marginalised youth", adult education, the media, political violence, and the impact of post-apartheid development projects.
International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame