Jakob Horn

Helmuth Dolff and the International Work of the DVV

1. Introduction

Helmuth Dolff, Director of the German Adult Education Association (DVV), died on 26 November 1983 at the age of fifty four after a brief illness. Adult education in Germany and throughout the world has, with his passing, lost an expert who made an immense contribution to the development of the international work of the German Adult Education Association (DVV) and German “Volkshochschulen” in the last 27 years.

When Roby Kidd, founder and long-term General Secretary of the International Council for Adult Education, died suddenly in March 1982 his death came as a shock to Helmuth Dolff. No-one knew at the time – not even Helmuth Dolff himself – that he was already stricken with an illness which would result in his joining his long-standing friend and colleague in international education one and a half years later. The awareness of the importance and necessity of international cooperation in adult education united Roby Kidd and Helmuth Dolff in a common task and a deep friendship. International cooperation in adult education in the last 25 years would have been at a loss without the professional knowledge of both of these men and their skill on the international front. Roby Kidd belonged to the academic side of adult education, Helmuth Dolff to the practical side yet both shared the same aims and strategy in international cooperation.

In the space of a short time international adult education has lost two strong pil lars. Their work should spur us on to even greater efforts.

This edition contains therefore two contributions from Roby Kidd and Helmuth Dolff. They were written quite a long time ago yet their message is still relevant today. The following article should make clear to us once again the constructive work of the German Adult Education Association (DVV) and the consolidation of its international work made possible by Helmuth Dolff.

2. Historical Development in the Relations Between the German Adult Education Association (DVV) and the Countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America

After 1945 the German “Volkshochschulen” quickly sought and found international contact again. They were represented at all the important international congresses concerned with the future development of adult education.

In the period following, the German Adult Education Association (DVV) was represented in the German delegation at all the UNESCO World Conferences and was thus able to enlarge and strengthen its international contacts, including those with representatives from the developing countries. The German Adult Education Association (DVV) was also co-founder of the Asia-South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education, the African Adult Education Association, the International Congress for University Adult Education and the International Council for Adult Education.

It was after the 2nd World Conference on Adult Education in Montreal, Canada in 1960 at which the young African and Asian states – which were gradually beginning to exchange their colonial status for independency – and the Latin American countries stepped more to the fore, that cooperation between the German “Volkshochschulen” and these countries began to take on a more concrete form. Success was often experienced at the various events.

The German African Society, in cooperation with the German Adult Education Association (DVV) and other institutions, organised an “Africa Week” in several German towns and “Volkshochschulen”. Within this framework the first course for African and German representatives of adult education took place from 25 –27 October 1960 at Schlog Hirschborn. It was here that many personal and profes sional contacts with representatives of African countries were formed by the Ger man Adult Education Association (DVV) which were later to play an important role in its work. Likewise in the autumn of 1960 numerous “Volkshochschulen” organised photographic exhibitions on life in Africa and Asia.

Dear colleagues,
Mr Jakob Horn was a well known person in adult education in Slovenia too. I have never met him. Though I tried he always remained elusive, but he was well respected and highly thought of. I believe that the world of adult education will miss him and his expertise.
Please, receive my condolences and those of the Slovenian Institute for Adult Education (SIAE) through me and extend them to his family as well,

Dr. Vida A. Mohorcic Spolar
Directress of the SIAE from 1996–2006

The many contacts and the various pro fessional contributions which the German “Volkshochschulen” and the German Adult Education Association (DVV) made to the international development of adult educa tion, culminated in the German “Volkshochschule” Day in Frankfurt having as its theme “Worldwide adult education – new dimensions in education”. In doing this the “Volkshochschulen” in Germany and the German Adult Education Association (DVV) openly acknowledged their contribution to international cooperation and at the same time exposed themselves to public criticism. The direct connection between adult education in the Federal Re public and cooperation with the developing countries was recognised even then:

”…although we may be the material givers, work in this field carries with it so much new knowledge and experience for our own situation that we should view the relationship as one of cooperation in the planning of adult education…Today’s world is indivisible and what is done or not done here effects the existence of every one of us…”

With this the fundamental principles and aims for the work of the German Adult Education Association (DVV) with the developing countries were established.

In April 1961 the first African scholarshipholder came to the Federal Republic for further education with the assistance of the German Adult Education Association (DVV). In the autumn of 1961 a one-year course for four adult educators from the Cameroons commenced at the “Volkshochschulen” in Bremen. In 1961 at the invi tation and request of the government of the Cameroons a so-called cadet training course for adult educators took place there. This was conducted by Dr. Siegfried Gerth, Director of the “Volkshochschulen” at Jagdschloß Göhrde.

In October 1962 an African-German Congress on Adult Education at the “Volkshochschulen” in Falkenstein, Taunus followed with representatives from Ghana, the Cameroons, the Sudan, Togo, Morocco, Tunesia, Uganda and Kenya.

One tangible result of this was, with the agreement of and with the support of the newly established Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation, the setting up of a one-year African adult educators’ course at the “Volkshochschulen” at Jagd schloß Göhrde. The course was established by the German “Volkshochschulen” to provide concrete assistance for the development of adult education in Africa together with the economic assistance given by the government of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The initiators and those responsible for this area of the German Adult Education Association’s (DVV) work acted in the belief that every form of development, aid is ineffectual without educational aid:

“All material-technical development aid is futile if it is not supported by educational aid which enables people to come to terms with the technical innovations and at the same time enables them to master the social tension and changes which then naturally arise...”

The German Adult Education Association (DVV) was convinced that it could assist its African partners in their problems with adult education by means of a well-conceived and well-conducted course on further education.

Adult educators at an intermediate level formed the target group for the course on further education in Göhrde. In the majority of the African partner countries of the German Adult Education Association (DVV) there were either inadequate or absolutely no possibilities at all for education and further education. In establishing the one-year courses for African adult educators the association worked from the following fundamental premises:

  1. The course is to be international and “pan-African” and shall contribute to the surmounting and breaking down of communication barriers in Africa.

  2. The course is to be – if possible – bi-cultural as far as the colonial past is concerned and shall encourage a mutual sharing of experience between the french-speaking and english-speaking participants.

  3. The heterogenity of the participants is to be reduced to a minimum by means of particular selective criteria and methods so that a uniform level of professional experience and learning ability amongst the participants can be attained.

Dear Heribert, dear colleagues
We are shock hearing the news.
Is a real lost for DVV and German , also a lost for the adult education world-wide and a lost for the Cyprus Adult Education. He was a wonderful person. He was our brother, our friend.
Me and my wife talked to him and to his wife Elin 12 days ago. He told us about his situation. We expressed interest to visit him. He was our brother.
God, we are sure, will have his soul in paradise near him.
We express our sympathy to his family and to DVV.

Klitos Symeonides
President of Cyprus Adult Education Association

In the twelve years of its existence, that is up until 1974, 277 colleagues from ten African countries attended the course. They also took part in practical courses at various German “Volkshochschulen” and thereby gained direct insight in the work of adult education in Germany. From these initial attempts at cooperation with the young African states an ever-widening spectrum of collaborative measures and programmes emerged in the period following. The courses on further education were supported and complemented by follow-up pro grammes for the course participants, cadet training courses for larger groups of adult educators in their own countries, special trips and follow-up trips for employees of the German Adult Education Association (DVV) and assistance with material for the former participants and partner insti tutions of the German Adult Educa tion Association (DVV). The planning and work of the German Adult Education Association (DVV) was assisted, to a large extent, by the government representative conferences at which the African partners of the German Adult Education Association (DVV) participated.

As a result of the positive experience made at the course for African adult edu cators the German Adult Education Association (DVV) agreed to establish, at the request of various Central American countries, a one-year course on further educa tion for adult educators from Latin America at the “Volkshochschulen” in Rendsburg under the direction of Dr. Kurt Meissner. 250 Latin American adult educators took part in the 3 one-year courses at Rendsburg from 1965 to 1968 and at the follow-up courses from 1968 to 1972 in San José, Costa Rica.

The participation of adult educators at the German Adult Education Association’s (DVV) courses on further education resulted in concrete projects in co-operation with African and Latin American countries.

In the mid-1960s the German Adult Education Association (DVV) began to plan a similar course on further education for Asia. This did not eventuate however on account of political and financial difficulties.

Professional reasons and the fact that the receivers of grants often have to deal with the changing views of political authorities, led to the cessation of the courses for African adult educators after a period of twelve years. From 1975 on, the course on further education was integrated in the German Adult Education Association’s (DVV) new programmes in Africa.

In establishing the course for African adult educators the German Adult Educa tion Association (DVV) had already considered in what form and on what basis long-term cooperation with the developing countries should be made. These ideas were put forward in a proposal to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation in 1969 with the argument that the increasing amount of cooperation with vari ous partners in developing countries and the subsequent systematic and long-term planning needed, made it necessary to establish a separate department for this area of the association’s international work. The “Department for Adult Education in Developing Countries” commenced work at the end of 1969. In this way the cooperation of the German Adult Education Association (DVV) with its partners in the developing countries was, from an administrative, professional and financial point of view, placed on a long-term, secure basis.

After years of development and consolidation the following areas of work unfolded:

  • Planning, coordination and carrying out of cooperation by the German Adult Education Association (DVV) with its partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America;

  • Professional assistance and advice for projects in these countries and for the partners of the German Adult Education Association (DVV) there;

  • Scientific services for the projects and partners of the German Adult Education Association (DVV);

  • Cooperation with national and international organisations and institutions;

  • Handling administrative side of projects from the intermediary application to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation to the final submission of account.

Dear Heribert:
It is with deep sympathy that I express my condolences upon the death of Mr. Jacob Horn. My fondest remembrance of him was his insights on key adult issues that he shared during the 11th German Adult Education Congress in Hamburg, November, 2001; and his generous welcome to me as an American Association for Adult and Continuing Education [AAACE] guest attending and observing the Congress.
The field of adult education world-wide is richer for his having been involved during his long and distinguished career.

With Gratefulness,
John A. Henschke,
University of Missouri-St. Louis

Continuous cooperation with partners in developing countries since the beginning of the sixties and the increasing number of programmes carried out together with these partners made it clear to the department that the future work of the German Adult Education Association (DVV) should be based on the following guide-lines:

  • Active support for adult education in “developing countries” is based on the awareness that development without education is impossible. We recognise the right of the “developing countries”

    to demand assistance from the rich industrial nations. Assistance however which is more than a mere act of charity and more than non-political or non-economic measures.
  • With adult education in “developing countries” we mean the efforts which together with the measures of the traditional, formal education system, con tribute to social justice. We must also take into account that adult education in many “developing countries” is often the only form of education available for a large part of the population. With development we mean the process which offers the possibility, in accordance with the demands and interests of the individual and the group, of satisfying the following fundamental needs: adequate education, sufficient nourishment, housing, social security, political and social participation and cultural activity.

  • Adult education differs, in our opinion, from the traditional forms of education by way of its greater flexibility in respect to individual and collective demands and interests. This flexibility enables adult educa tion to be realised with regard to development. To a great extent basic needs in “developing countries” cannot be satisfied on account of historical, political, economic and social reasons. Adult education should attempt to expose these reasons and offer solutions. Adult education should, right from the start, support the disadvantaged.


  • We are of the opinion that in several “developing countries” external help can, at a certain time, assist the cause of adult education. The adopting of western education models must be avoided however in this respect. Decisions on forms of organisation, content and methods of adult education should be made by the “developing countries” themselves.

  • We see possibilities for support in the following areas:

    • Promotion of further education for adult educators at a primary, intermediate and advanced level.
    • Promotion of institutional forms of adult education in the urban sector with emphasis on vocational training.
    • Promotion of basic education in rural areas with particular consideration given to forms of agricultural productivity, marketing and gain.
    • Promotion of the media as an effective means of stimulating large sections of the population, supported by complementary teaching and learning material and courses.
    • Promotion of programmes for the production of teaching and learning material.

The German Adult Education Association (DVV), as an independent organisation, is free to select its partners for cooperation in adult education. Because of its many years of work and its professional contacts the association has partners from the government sector as well as the private sector for certain programmes.

Helmuth Dolff supported the importance and effectiveness of the diversity of the international work of the German Adult Education Association (DVV) and summa rised this in his own particular pragmatic style in 1976 in Cali, Colombia:

“The problems of adult education are so manysided and so difficult to solve that it can only be but beneficial to strengthen international cooperation. Cooperation also plays a role however in ensuring peace in a world which is becoming more and more complex.”

Reprint from Adult Education and Development Number 22, 1984, pp. 23–30

Dear Heribert,
I am deeply saddened about the death of Jacob Horn. We have all known and appreciated the enormous contribution he did for adult education worldwide and the transformative role he played in shaping and harnessing DVV ‘s strategy and work in this field. Adult educators will not forget him.

Adama Ouane, Head UIL