On 12 and 13 June 2019, Community Engagement Directorate hosted a workshop to make University of Venḓa (Univen) staff aware and understand the relevance to practice and to work with communities. This workshop took place at Porche Villa Hotel, Muledane. 

Workshop participants listening to the facilitator of the workshop 

The workshop facilitator, Ms Cuzette du Plessis from University of Limpopo, Rural Development, and Innovation Hub (RDIH), advised the participants to take time to know the communities before starting a community engagement project. “CE activities should be relevant and responsive to both the communities and the students,” she said. Ms. du Plessis used pictures and video clips to kick-start conversations about worldviews and philosophies, asking the question: 

  • • What world views/philosophies/ attitudes are reflected in the pic/clips? 
  • • To what extend will these world views strengthen or weaken decolonized practices in TL, Research and CE? 

She further encouraged participants to find out from community members, issues that they feel strong about because that can help an engaged scholar to change their thinking about what’s important. “Be able to manage realistic expectations and always remember that community engagement should be an integrated academic core activity”. ‘Think of CE as a pizza. She argued that students and community members should be involved in Community Engagement to be integrated core academic activity. She emphasized the need for engaged conversations, which she said is an integral ingredient of CE in higher education, particularly as ideas and practices have to be engaged and critiqued. 

“Community engagement must be student centered and there is a need to create a context for students to think out of the box.” 

Participants also discussed key principles to be considered before embarking on community engagement projects. The overview of community engagement, national and international trends; the idea of an engaged University and community engagement as integrated scholarship. The proposed partnership with Marude was at the centre of the discussion about what might be the flagship CE project of the University. 

Prof Vhonani Ṋetshandama, Director: Community Engagement also emphasised that academics should be more creative about engaging students for better graduates’ attributes. “We need to rethink and shift towards giving our students an opportunity and responsibility to play their roles.” Learning should be engaging. As much as students learn from lecturers, lecturers should also learn from students. Undergraduate students are smarter than we give them credit for. Prof Ṋetshandama further re-iterated the plea for more academics to engage Marude high school through the office of Community Engagement. She concluded her talk by advising participants to create an enabling environment for participation of students to bring fresh ideas” 

Group exercises were also used to make participants understand and relate to community engagement concepts and dynamics. Groups also had an opportunity to plan possible community engagement projects for the school and or department. Each participant was asked to reflect about what could be the “entrance point” for scholarship of engagement. 

Attendees sharing opinions during group exercises 

Dr Emmaculate Ingwani, a senior lecturer at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, shared with participants the spatial planning work that she is doing at Marude with a group of URP students. She indicated that she and her students have already visited Marude several times and that various stakeholders are involved in the project amongst others, Univen staff and students, Thulamela, GIS in Environmental Sciences, Community Engagement Directorate, Ngovhela community, and Maruḓe secondary. Students work in groups and will be expected to provide a comprehensive report upon completion, which will be evaluated accordingly. One of the research questions the students are asking is, “How can we come up with better Maruḓe in terms of settlement?”, “If Maruḓe is the neighbor of a top-notch university in Limpopo province which is UniVen, what type of school is it supposed to be?” She asked. 

Above is Dr Emaculate Ingwani from the School of Environmental Sciences, Department of Urban and Regional Planning (URP) presenting a project she is involved with together with the URP students at Maruḓe Secondary School. 

Dr Ingwani’s initiatives was laudable. Other participants indicated that they were inspired by her initiatives. 

Dr Mushaphi, the Deputy Dean of the School of Health Sciences gave a word of appreciation to the facilitator. She said that when she came to the workshop, she had a different view about community engagement. She encouraged others to go back and share the experiences and lessons with colleagues. Participants echoed the appreciative sentiments and requested that the conversations should continue at school boards and acknowledge the potential that CE has in addressing various aspects of the academic core project. 

Dr Lindelani Mushaphi handing Ms. Cuzette du Plessis a present of appreciation. 

Participants posing for a photo with the facilitator 

More photos of participants 

Prof Ndlovu Lonias, Dean of the School of Law contributing at the workshop 

Professor Peter Tshisikhawe, Deputy Dean, School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences 

Issued by: 

Department of Communications & Marketing 

University of Venda 

Tel: (015) 962 8525 

Date: 24 June 2019 

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