Community Engagement (CE)

About Us


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 an exemplar for best practices in Higher Education CE programmes that focuses on Rural Development and Poverty Reduction in South Africa


The Directorate Community Engagement strives for excellence in supporting interdisciplinary community engaged teaching and learning, community engaged research geared towards addressing community poverty-related challenges and development needs of the communities in the Limpopo Province and in SADC rural communities.


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.
Director's Profile

Prof Vhonani Netshandama

Prof Vhonani Netshandama

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 at the University of South Africa (UNISA) where she taught Health services management and later on joined the University of Venda where she taught everything from Bio-chem and bio-physics for nurses to general nursing, nursing management and mental health. She later on became more interested in community problem based nursing education health. In her DCur, she investigated a question of what it means for a university to be in partnership with the community and what is entailed in the concept of partnership with communities. She developed a model and standards for partnership between a nursing education institution and a community. 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. In 2006, she was a visiting scholar at the University of Virginia, school of nursing. The role included coordinating work integrated learning, and partnerships with communities, industries, local FET college and other stakeholders. From 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 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 subcommittee 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 non profit organisations. Vhonani has worked with several community based organisation including international non profit organisations.

Her research areas include amongst others the role of community engagement in social 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. Vhonani enjoys working with students on community engagement work and has mentored a significant number of students in this regard.

Being a strong believer of working together for common purpose, Vhonani has initiated and 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. Her vision is to develop well rounded graduates that are socially responsible and development savvy. She looks forward to opportunities for youth learnerships and internship programmes that are community based.

Flagship Programmes


Vuwani Science Resource Centre

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.

Name: Prof. V.O. Netshandama
Designation: Director, Community Engagement
Tel: +27 15 962 8470
Fax: +27 15 962 8858

Ms IN Nemadodzi

CE Officer

Tel: +27 15 962 8236
Fax: +27 15 962 8858

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