|This study was prompted by the increase in the numbers of adult learners who registered for a Diploma in Secondary Education offered by a tertiary institution (university). The diploma is a one-year programme, offered over two years through distance mode of delivery and concentrates on offering professional educational courses similar to those provided in the Bachelor of Education degree at the university. The aim was to investigate the opportunity to participate in adult learning among adult learners and barriers that affect them at a university in Southern Africa. I chose a qualitative research method and the Chain-of-Response Model (CoR) as the conceptual framework of the study. The CoR Model was a lens through which I analysed adult learners’ decision-making processes to participate in adult learning and to find the barriers affecting adult learners from actively participating in adult learning. The model is in the format of the cycle that has factors that influence the decision-making process of an individual. Following the logic of the CoR cycle, adult learners were selected to find out why they had participated in adult leaning and why others did not participate.
The site of this study was the northern campus of a university in Southern Africa. Twenty adult learners were selected through non-probability purposive sampling from the university database. All adult learners participated voluntarily. There were three (3) males and seventeen (17) females in the study; their age range was 20 to 40 years old. Two questions underpinned the study: what opportunities are available for participation in distance education study, and what barriers affect participation in distance education study. The study findings revealed that adult learners do have opportunities to study and their attitudes towards education were positive. The barriers identified by participants were as follows: limited network connectivity, limited supply of electricity, few schools to do teaching practice; lack of teaching experience, limited transportation, limited time to do assignments, few employment opportunities, lack of course information and lack of career guidance for participants.
The study recommends that the university improves among others, the dissemination of information to adult learners and to create teaching practice opportunities in partnerships with various stakeholders to address institutional barriers.