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In the beginning of 2009, The University of Venda created a directorate on Community Engagement (CE). Through the directorate, Univen seeks to ensure that a qualitative, symbiotic and reciprocal relationship exists between itself and its community stakeholders – a relationship of mutual benefit. It is the intention of Univen to excel in Community Engagement programmes that is both scholarship-based and community oriented, embedded in the academic work of the institution.


To be the global hub for best practices in Higher Education Community Engagement


The Directorate of Community Engagement drives community engagement as a core value for teaching and learning, research and Innovation in rural development work of the University of Venda


The following values influence CE programmes at Univen

  • Vhuthu/Botho/Vumuhnu/Ubuntu
  • People orientation: We listen to people and interact with communities so that teaching and learning and research programmes at UNIVEN has the community voice in them.
  • Interdisciplinary, Multidisciplinary and Trans-disciplinary Collaboration: We endeavour to support all interdisciplinary collaboration that is geared towards addressing shared challenges with communities
  • Authenticity, Responsibility and Accountability: We strive for honesty, responsibility and accountability for public good.
  • Truthfulness and trustworthiness: We commit ourselves to cultivate community informed, credible, reliable and trustworthy research and learning programmes.
  • Sharing: We share with the public, the knowledge, the challenges and the resources were possible towards public good.
  • Inclusivity: We embrace contributions from students, academic support and service staff towards public good. We embrace community engagement philosophies in teaching and learning, Research and Social responsibility programmes of the University.

CE Strategic goals

Recognising that planning, implementation, coordination and management of CE activities appropriately rest with the schools and centres through individual staff members, Deans and Heads of Departments, the directorate Community Engagement provide support and coordination functions. CE directorate

  • Provides a intellectual and community informed leadership on community engagement programmes in schools and centres;
  • Mobilize, organize and interact with staff, students, rural communities and other stakeholders for responsive teaching and learning, research and social responsibility projects;
  • Serve as a nerve centre for engagement on issues of community interest such as Water, Health, Local Economic Development, Social development, etc
  • Create platforms and or facilitate the creation of knowledge co-creation and development
  • Facilitate the creation of platforms and opportunities for work-based learning, service learning and other forms of experiential learning for students at various schools.

Vhonani is a trained mental health nurse and midwife.  She spent most of her early career years training students to become nurses and nurse managers.  She started off her Nursing Education career at the University of South Africa (UNISA) where she taught Health services management and later on joined the University of Venda where she taught anything from Bio-chemistry and bio-physics for nurses to general nursing, nursing management and mental health.  She has assumed roles as both interim HOD of the Department of Nursing and assisted the dean of the school of Health Sciences.  She spent a couple of years as a coordinator of community engagement programmes for the university including international programmes that have community based programmes embedded in it.

She later on became more interested in community problem based nursing education health.  In her DCur, which she completed in 2003, Vhonani investigated a question of what it means for a university to be in partnership with the community and what is entailed in the process thereof. She developed a model and standards for partnership between a nursing education institution and a community. In 2006, she was a visiting scholar at the University of Virginia, school of nursing.   Her research areas include amongst others the role of community engagement in social and economic transformation, Education for Social Justice and responsible citizenry, school partnership for development, the role of volunteerism in development and in grooming students to be responsible citizenship, Water and heath as well as mental health.  She is an ardent scholar of the scholarship of Community engagement in Higher Education

From 2007 to date her role included coordinating works integrated learning, and partnerships with communities, industries, local FET College and other stakeholders.  Between 2005 and 2008, she was an academic coordinator for the Community Development Workers Programme in the Limpopo Province.   She was part of the reference group that worked on the development of training material for traditional leadership and community development in behalf of the Local Government SETA.  She also assisted in facilitating some of the programmes.  Vhonani enjoys working with students on community engagement work and has mentored a significant number of students in this regard. Her vision is to develop well rounded graduates that are socially responsible and development savvy.  She looks forward to opportunities for youth learnership and internship programmes that are community based. 

Vhonani has served the maximum 3 terms at the Programme Accreditation Committee of the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) in the Council on Higher Education (CHE).  She also served as a board member for Vhembe FET College and was responsible for the academic board a committee of council.  She is an executive board member of the South African Higher Education Community Engagement forum, a board member of a UNIVEN Income Generation Centre (UIGC), and of several Community based non-profit organisations. Vhonani has worked with several community based organisation including international non profit organisations. 

Being a strong believer of working together for common purpose, Vhonani has initiated and or coordinated several collaborative initiatives both locally and internationally.  She is the current lead project manager for Vhembe District Skills Development Initiative 2013-2015, an area which she passionately developed in the past 3 years.    

Vuwani Science Resource Centre
Attached to the School of Mathematical and natural Sciences

Water and Health in Limpopo (WHIL) and Water, Health Education and Development Inititatives (WHEAD)
Collaboration between Univen, University of Virginia and selected Communities in Vhembe District Municipality.

Click to see Water and Health in Limpopo (WHIL) prjects presentation.

Designation Name Contacts
CE Officer Ms IN Nemadodzi Tel : +27 15 962 8236
Fax : +27 15 962 8858
E-mail :,,
Director, CE Prof. V.O. Netshandama Tel : +27 15 962 8470
Fax : +27 15 962 8858
E-mail :