The University of Venda Launched a Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation community engaged research project on 14 May 2019 at the Research Conference Centre. The launch was attended by invited students whose activities, organisations and societies are entrepreneural in nature as well as Stakeholders from municipalities, SEDA Thohoyandou Business forum and all interested organisation around Thohoyandou. Director of Community Engagement, Professor Vhonani Netshandama in her capacity as the NFR supported project leader of a project entitled, Developing a Socially Innovative and Entrepreneurship culture through Community Engagement, A case of UNIVEN, unpacked the background of the project and pointed out its imperatives. Netshandama unvailed two broad aims underpinning the project. Firstly, the need to investigate the role that community engagement can play in developing entrepreneurship and social innovation initiatives in Vhembe District – And since the Community Enagegemnt functions of a University is performed by students and staff, the project would provide an opprotunity for students to develop the graduate attributes required for the job market. She further emphasised that “this should also serve as learning platforms for work integrated learning for Univen students.” 

Above: The Director of Community Engagement 

Secondly, to create a point of intersection for the efforts of the municipalities, civil society, government, businesses and the University community to develop an entrepreneural culture in the University and its surrounding. To her, the approach is one “vital path for responsible citizenship towards the development of Thohoyandou as a healthy University town.” 

Some of the key points highlighted by Netshandama were “staff and students have to be socially entrepreneurial and innovative, have business mindset, coupled with a service-delivery/servant spirit”, she said. Enterprise development and entrepreneurial skills should form part of the academic value chain. For example, Entrepreneurial development should be incorporated into the curriculum. Community engagement initiatives could be both scholarly, innovative, entrepereneural and service oriented. 

Dr Robert Martin, DVC Operations, UNIVEN 

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor Operations, Dr Robert Martin, outlined the proposed ‘UNIVEN rejuvenation plan’. He indicated that the University intends to strengthen influence on building the entrepreneurial culture within the University staff and students’ engagement by capitalising on collaboration in the Quadruple Helix nexus. UNIVEN has to strengthen entrepreneurship education and research; the government should provide the support through different implementation arms; the business environment should be onboard and the role of communities on entrepreneurial development must be outlined and acted upon. An important factor is a push to reduce barriers to student entrepreneurship on campus, he said. He maintained that Social Entrepreneurship Development programme will offer good platforms for young entrepreneurs to showcase their innovation that could be supported to operate within the University and beyond. 

Furthermore, he alerted the students to be on the lookout for the UNESCO supported programmes for entrepreneurship education and development. 

 

Mr Donald Hlongwane, Business Advisor, SEDA 

Mr Donald Hlongwane, Business Advisor, SEDA supported that students with innovative entrepreneurial ideas should be assisted to develop them. There are numerous opportunities available for young people interested in entrepreneurship. He alluded to the fact that lack of information has been an issue. Skills development amongst young people is another constraint. Hence, there should be support mechanisms to leverage these issues and enhance entrepreneurial activities. He lauded the initiators of the launched project and pledged support to ensure sustainability of the project. 

Mr Gideon Ramulifho, Coach UNIVEN Tennis Club 

Mr Gideon Ramulifho, Coach UNIVEN Tennis Club purported that it is important to enhance entrepreneurial development. However, the development must start with the management. Those at the forefront of the programme should improve their 

minds before they attempt to decolonise the minds of others. He mentioned that there is a huge problem with our education system. He suggested that every student should undergo a compulsory entrepreneurial course, possibly for six months, irrespective of their disciplines, before completing a degree. Through this, people will acquire skills that may help them identify an innovation to hold onto while they are in transition to the labour market. 

Mr N. Makhavhu, Practitioner LED, Vhembe District Municipality 

Mr N Makhavhu, a practitioner from the Local Economic Development (LED), Vhembe District Municipality, mentioned that “our educational system is such that everyone thinks of what the society holds for the graduates.” The minds need to be decolonised from the in-depth point of view such that young people begin to see and understand the reality of life. “The pedagogy must be reformed to produce skilled and competent graduates that will not add to the existing unemployed at the labour market.” Mr Makhavhu joined others to stress the need for a wide range of awareness and capacity building in whichever way possible. 

Dr John Mudau, CEO UIGC 

Dr John Mudau, the CEO of the Univen Innovative Growth Company (UIGC) PTY (LTD) implored students to build career path along with entrepreneurship, mapping out that the population is growing, things are getting tougher and only innovators may earn a better living in the emerging society.” As a way of motivating young individuals, he said, his Company has introduced entrepreneurship foundation scheme where innovative entrepreneurs could compete and be awarded grants for entrepreneurial activities. 

Mr Ishmael Lwara, a PhD Candidate, UNIVEN 

Ishmael Lwara, a PhD candidate in Rural Development, whose research is on entrepreneurship raised student concerns in fourfold: 

– Firstly, poor entrepreneurial environment and stringent university policies that favours well developed entrepreneurs than the students; 

– Secondly, lack of innovation development hubs/offices/labs on campus; 

– And thirdly, perceptions and general lack of support during student life on campus as well as the; 

– mindset of handouts and entitlement of most youth. 

Mr Lwara draws inferences on two empirical concerns that social entrepreneurship should address. Firstly, “parents, for sociocultural factors and lack of education want their offspring to build a career in the elite disciplines and pensionable jobs. Hence, the place of entrepreneurial activity is totally ignored.” In other words, there is a huge need for awareness programmes. He also emphasised on the frustrating policies and poor entrepreneurial environment that deter entrepreneurial development. Iwara suggested empowerment initiatives and policy reviews to provide a stable entrepreneurial environment for students. He concluded by stating that UNIVEN has a role to play in developing its students. 

Mr Tshedza Sikhwari, a Masters in Political Science student, UNIVEN 

Mr Tshedza Sikhwari, a master’s in political science student, suggested the need for robust researches on entrepreneurial projects. He confirmed that entrepreneurial activities are pivotal economic resource that should be harnessed to meet the development pace in South Africa. Hence, the university is saddled with huge responsibility of graduating entrepreneurs who can provide job opportunities and not employees. This sentiment was deliberated by many other students in attendance. 

Cross-session of participants during the event 

Whereas, some postulated skills advancement and capital, many concur that entrepreneurial culture is lacking from childhood. Therefore, rather than starting at institution of higher learning, there is a need to look at ways in which entrepreneurship education could start at primary schools. 

The launch was followed by a few days of formal coaching in which students were encouraged to generate business ideas and solicit support from respective units in the University and beyond. 

Cross-session of the participants during the project launch 

Issued by: Department of Communications & Marketing 

University of Venda 

Tel: (015) 962 8525 

Date: 03June 2019