Community-university partnership provides community with new sense of purpose 

1 March 2024   |  Story Leonie Bolleurs


A group of 17 participants recently graduated from the Global University for Lifelong Learning’s (GULL) Bachelor Professional Pathway to ‘Temong’ (which means ‘to grow’). They are from the village at Nogas Post in Thabo ‘Nchu, led by Kgosi Moroka. 

“The atmosphere in the ZR Mahabane Foyer on the campus of the Central University of Technology (CUT) was described as joyful, with me being likened to the mother of the nation and the graduates as my children.” These were the words of Kgosi Gaboilelwe Moroka, the ‘Woman King’ of the Barolong Boo Seleka traditional community in Thaba ’Nchu east of Bloemfontein, and the founder of the Princess Gabo Foundation. She was speaking at the graduation ceremony of 17 participants who graduated from the Global University for Lifelong Learning’s (GULL) Bachelor Professional Pathway to ‘Temong’ (which means ‘to grow’).  

“In a motherly nature, one has so many emotions running at the same time. I cried, hugged, danced. All emotions reflect a milestone that we can celebrate. It is a moment of change for many who never thought they would wear a gown or cap in their lives. That is what touched me – to see that with cooperation, we can really make a great impact on the ground, changing the lives of people who did not believe in themselves, for the better,” elaborated Moroka.

The story of the graduation is one of hope, where institutions such as the University of the Free State (UFS), CUT, and GULL joined hands with the community of Thabo ‘Nchu to instil confidence, self-belief, and an excitement to learn in the lives of a community challenged by a lack in the areas of agriculture, digital skills, economics, education, infrastructure, health, and social development.

Education key in creating a smart village

With the UFS and CUT’s involvement, the Princess Gabo Foundation committed to creating a smart village at Nogas Post, one of the 42 villages in Thabo ‘Nchu under the leadership of Kgosi Moroka. This community-university research partnership aims to advance community development through multi- and transdisciplinary knowledge sharing – advocating for the integration of teaching and learning, research, and community engagement through engaged scholarship.

Although only at the infancy level of becoming a smart village, there is progress in a number of areas. According to Dr Karen Venter, Head of the Division of Service Learning in the Directorate of Community Engagement at the UFS, smart water initiatives have seen the establishment of solar-powered boreholes provided by agricultural partner, AfriForum. The Faculty of Engineering at CUT conducted training on smart sun-driven energy for cooking as part of the learning support network on the pathway. Regarding smart education, participants embarked on the Bachelor Professional Pathway to ‘Temong’, gaining access to innovative, accessible, and low-cost alternative education. 

With GULL’S involvement, community members were rewarded and recognised for their hard work of action learning on the Bachelor Professional pathway. The President of GULL, Prof Richard Teare, attended the ceremony in person all the way from the United Kingdom to congratulate the participants who graduated at different levels.

According to Dr Venter, it was a highlight for the GULL pathway participants that the co-founder and president of GULL presented the awards himself. “Prof Teare congratulated the participants on their self-determined action learning, making them feel very special for living out the motto of GULL: ‘Enabling you to make a difference in our world’,” she says.

This pathway includes a personal development/life skills strand (Level 1 to 5) as well as a professional development part comprising social innovation and entrepreneurship through agriculture.

Dr Venter explains that the Community Engagement Indaba, themed Building Self-reliance, Self-sufficiency, Self-sustainable Livelihoods for Entrepreneurship, presented by the Directorate of Community Engagement at the UFS (also involving action learning workshops), serves as part of the learning support network for training on the pathway. The student organisation, ACCESS (Active Community Citizens through Engaged Scholarship for Sustainability), also contributes to training for the pathway, for example, earth building, worm farming, and manufacturing through recycling.

They now create their own agricultural resources for a source of income, identify their own problems, and formulate their own solutions – hence, they have gained life-transforming outcomes. 
– Dr Karen Venter

Adding value to the lives of participants 

The Action Learning Bachelor Professional pathway added value to the lives of the participants. Dr Venter states that all the participants are showing an increase in self-confidence, self-belief, and enthusiasm for learning through a process of action and reflection, gaining a new sense of direction and purpose for their careers and lives. Regarding professional development, she mentions that the participants acquired new skills and a sense of being equipped for the future. “They now create their own agricultural resources for a source of income, identify their own problems, and formulate their own solutions – hence, they have gained life-transforming outcomes. As a group, they also established a stokvel for saving and started a spaza shop in their village,” she adds. 

One of the participants remarked that for the first time she was able to give money to her mother and buy new clothes for her children. “I am now planting and growing my own vegetables. I have enough to eat and sell for an income,” she says.

Dr Venter, a Vice-President of GULL, helps to initiate and support their work in national and regional areas. She served as a coach and mentor on the Bachelor Professional Pathway to ‘Temong’ for the Nogas Post participants. Furthermore, she was also involved in the quality assurance of the action learning process.

She states that for the Bachelor Profession Pathway to ‘Temong’ project to be sustainable, the current participants must invite and mentor three new participants to the pathway. According to Dr Venter, this is an essential criterion to achieve the degree (Level 5) for completion of the pathway. “This is a cascade learning model – from few to many – enabling these pioneers to sustain and expand the pathway over time to 41 more villages, with the support of Kgosi Moroka,” Dr Venter adds. 

LISTEN: The voice message from Kgosi Gaboilelwe Moroka, the ‘Woman King’ of the Barolong Boo Seleka traditional community in Thaba ’Nchu.


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