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Community engagement must be a core function of universities
2009-05-21

 
 Members of the NatCEMF Steering Committee are, from the left: Mr Jerome Slamat, Senior Director: Community Interaction, Stellenbosch University, Ms Beatrix Bouwman, Manager: Community Engagement, North-West University, Rev Kiepie Jaftha, Chief Director: Community Service, UFS and chairperson of the committee, Prof. Allan Femi Lana, Director: Institute for Rural Development and Community Engagement, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Prof. Seth Pollack, Fulbright Scholar, University of Western Cape (guest speaker at the meeting), Prof. Denver Hendricks, Director: Community Engagement, University of Pretoria, and Prof. Priscilla Daniels, Chairperson: Human Ecology and Research and CHESP Research Coordinator, University of the Western Cape.
Photo: Lacea Loader
 It is important that all tertiary institutions in South Africa should work together and commit themselves to advance the cause of community engagement in the country.

This was one of the main outcomes of the second meeting held by the National Community Engagement Manager’s Forum (NatCEMF) at the South Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) in Bloemfontein recently. The meeting was attended by 34 representatives of 16 higher education institutions in the country.

“I am astounded at the interest in this matter. The representatives are committed to make community engagement a core function of their institutions and we all agreed that we should get more involved in expanding this across all institutions. A need for a formal structure for us all to work together and have a more collective voice was also identified,” said Rev Kiepie Jaftha, Chief Director: Community Service at the UFS and Chairperson of the NatCEMF Steering Committee.

“There is a growing need to expand and develop our engagement with communities – to share our experiences and best practices and to learn from each other. There are universities that are doing excellent work in this field and, by having a formal structure, we can do a lot more towards advancing community engagement,” said Rev Jaftha.

The meeting identified matters such as the coordination of higher education institutions’ involvement in community engagement, the facilitation of research about community engagement, promoting service learning as transformation, the establishment of a community engagement resource centre and the organisation of a national community engagement conference as some of its aims. A national steering committee was also elected.

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