Students are making a difference in governance practices in the communities

The service-learning module within the BA curriculum provides an excellent opportunity for students to gain first-hand experience on a practical level regarding governance issues within communities.

Students contribute to improved good governance practices at municipal and especially at ward level. Over the years, students have analysed, assessed, and learned how ward councillors implement good governance principles. They also obtained a better understanding of the theoretical framework of Political Science and Public Administration and Management; they could clearly use and link the theory of the different subjects to understand the practical issues and problems experienced by communities and councils regarding good governance. They were able to identify the basic principles of good governance, and could advise the community and councillors to implement good practices and improved service delivery. In the process of the muddle, the accountability of public servants, particularly ward councillors, was ensured.

The community obtained a better understanding of the theoretical framework of political management and the difficulties with implementing decisions and policies. Community members voiced their opinions and shared their dreams, concerns and needs in an open and transparent manner. Students also had the opportunity to present their research findings, experience and very important, their understanding of governance and political transformation during a formal presentation to colleagues, students, and the ward councillors of the different wards.

Service learning is an educational, practical programme aimed at cultivating knowledge into practice. It requires students to apply the theory and knowledge acquired from Governance and Political Transformation into pragmatic conditions on the real field. The programme involves working and engaging with the local community and local community projects. The community is the core factor of the entire programme; this means students engage with the community and the political leaders.

The interaction between the students and the community is reciprocal in that both parties learn from each other and teach each other. Good governance plays a pivotal role as the underlying factor of the political practice with specific reference to community participation, which encourages the extensive participation and involvement of the community in local government matters. Through their engagement with the community, students are able to reflect on the community’s experiences and challenge and recommend possible solutions.

It is important to note that service learning is not only confined to politics. It is extensively incorporated in the public administration, in terms of municipal management. Because service learning is based on local government, the knowledge gained in municipal management enhances one’s understanding of how municipalities operate and what their duties are towards the public. More importantly is the relationship between the municipality and its constituents. However, in practical terms, these are not effective. There is a huge gap between the municipality, governed by leaders and the public. Communication science stipulates the interpersonal skill, persuasive mechanisms and the relationship between the communicator and listener. These principles are often required in order to enforce effective interaction between the two parties. In practice, this does not materialise effectively, mainly because leaders impose decisions on the public, most of the time not listening to the views and inputs of the public.

Overall, service learning is an overwhelming, insightful and productive educational experience that expands the knowledge base of students. However, it can well be said that the theory in academics differs vastly from the practical conditions in governance.


FACULTY CONTACT

T: +27 51 401 2240 or humanities@ufs.ac.za

Postgraduate:
Marizanne Cloete: +27 51 401 2592

Undergraduate:
Katlego Mabulana: +27 51 401 2495
Juanita Hlongwane: +27 51 401 3269

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