21 October 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Tshepo Moeketsi
Qwaqwa research research
Mamokete Mokhatla (SRC: International Students Council), Pulane Xaba (Assistant: Afromontane Research Unit), Dr Hagenmeier, Morena Ntsane Mopeli, Prof Pearl Sithole, Chief Mlati, Kanego Mogotsi (Internationalisation: Qwaqwa Campus), and Prof Joseph Francis.

Communities are beginning to wonder if universities exist for themselves or for their communities. This is the view shared by Prof Pearl Sithole, Campus Vice-Principal: Academic and Research, during the opening of the two-day Travelling Seminar that was recently hosted on the Qwaqwa Campus. 

Research in communities

“This event is well-placed, considering what many communities are currently going through. We must ask ourselves what we are doing with and for our communities. We must be careful to not only reap data from them, but to be scientific in a way that accommodates our communities and allows the African and indigenous agenda into the world of science,” she added.

Providing background to the concept of homestays, the Director: Institute for Rural Development at the University of Venda, Prof Joseph Francis, acknowledged the role played by communities in research.

 “This seminar seeks to develop a testable framework for homestays; a concept enabling postgraduate students to be placed with rural families while conducting research in the area. It is also aimed at giving birth to a vibrant, community-based rural and regional development network connecting grassroots communities, business, government, and non-governmental stakeholders,” he said.

“We do not only train students for local deployment and within national borders. It is important to produce an ‘all-weather’ graduate who stands out wherever they are. Graduates must ask themselves, ‘what in me stands out among the rest?’ As a student and researcher, never see yourself as being confined to the space where you are,” he added.

Students as ambassadors

Cornelius Hagenmeier, Director: Office of International Affairs at the University of the Free State, said for internationalisation to work, it has to be inclusive and create student ambassadors. “As this seminar will show, our networks of stakeholder communities go beyond the national confines and borders. We must strive, through this project, to create ambassadors of the university, of communities, of the broader South Africa and Africa,” he said.

Participants in the seminar were academics and postgraduate students from both the Universities of the Free State and Venda. Also present were community and traditional leaders from Qwaqwa and the Vhembe District in Limpopo. 

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