In 1994, the new democratic government responded positively to the demands by the trade union movement for a commitment to Trade Union Education under the control of the trade union movement. The government created a special dedicated fund for this purpose, and supported the formation of DITSELA as an institute that will help build labour capacity to:
- Strengthen worker participation in workplace, industrial and political democracy
- Strengthen workers intellectual and organising capacity
- Build and strengthen a strong vibrant labour movement in SA
- Promote the role and importance of workers education
DITSELA is supported by the Strengthening Civil Society Fund which is administered by the Department of Labour. On the 29 November 1996, DITSELA was officially launched by the participating Federations and the Ministry of Labour, at the Workers Library and Museum.
DITSELA started formally operating in January 1997 and the DITSELA Western Cape was established in October 2000, when it merged with the Western Cape Workers College. Over the years, DITSELA has grown to become the leading provider of education, training and support services to the trade union movement in South Africa. Its reputation as a labour institute has also grown beyond the borders of South Africa.
DITSELA strives to be a responsive, innovative and democratic learning organisation that contributes to building a strong trade union movement. It endeavors to conduct relevant and high quality trade union education and support, as well as education research informed by this work.
DITSELA’s approach is based on the recognition of the primary role of the trade union movement and the working class, in transforming society and the important contribution of trade union education in realizing this goal.
DITSELA aims to contribute to strengthening the labour movement by:
- Delivering programmes that are at the cutting edge in trade union education, research and support.
- Supporting the development of the organisational capacity of trade unions and federations towards delivering their own education and building of working class power.
- Striving to be a worker-education center that offers dynamic, vibrant, critical and inspiring education that engages the evolving challenges facing the trade union movement and the broader working class.
- Building a comprehensive and responsive programme that can be reproduced, adapted and sustained throughout the labour movement.
- Maintaining an open space for critical reflection and engagement
- Embodying and promoting the democratic views and ethos of the trade union movement.
- Striving to be a responsive learning organization.
Encouraging unionists who participate in the Ditsela programme to ploughback their learnings to strengthen the labour movement.
Promoting worker education as part of the adult learning policy discourse and its vital role in advancing socio-economic justice for the working class
Providing quality non-formal and formal worker education that encourages critical thinking, activism and transformation of the workplace and of society
Supporting the development of education, organising and leadership capacity of the labour movement
Advancing the unity and solidarity of the working class locally, on the continent and globally
Upholding traditional union values of democracy, collectivism, equality, human rights and the dignity of labour
Collaborating with the workers’ education movement locally and globally