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21 May 2019 | Story Igno van Niekerk | Photo Stephen Collett
Digital storytelling
Collaborating for the common good are from left: Willem Ellis, Karen Venter, Dr Deidre van Rooyen, Prof Hendri Kroukamp, Bishop Billyboy Ramahlele, and Dr Johan van Zyl.

Prof Hendri Kroukamp, Dean of the Faculty of Management Sciences quoted the Cat Stevens song I can’t keep it in, to capture the excitement surrounding the opening of a Digital Storytelling Lab on the Bloemfontein Campus on 10 May 2019.

After months of hard work by Dr Deidre van Rooyen, Willem Ellis, Karen Venter, as well as the staff of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Centre for Development Support, the Common Good First lab was completed just in time for the launch attended by about 50 delegates from other South African universities, as well as private and public institutions.

Stories meet technology

In a message, from Prof Puleng LenkaBula, Vice-Rector: Institutional Change, Student Affairs, and Community Engagement, informed the audience that the launch heralded the joining of the old world of stories with the new world of digital technology. Julie Adair, Director of Digital Collaboration at Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland, welcomed the UFS as a partner to this international social innovation collaborative project in a video message. 

Dr Van Rooyen, the project manager for the UFS, explained how she got involved in the Common Good First project, what the benefits of digital storytelling are, as well as what opportunities the lab creates for cooperation between role players involved in social innovation projects. 

Why the Common Good First lab?

The purpose of the lab is to create a digital network to identify, showcase and connect social innovation projects in South Africa to one another and to universities around the world for research, student engagement and learning and teaching. The lab has been fitted with state-of-the-art equipment for recording and digitising the stories that result from social innovation projects.

In a live Skype session with Dr Il-Haam Petersen, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), and some of the recent successes of the digital stories in Philippi in the Western Cape were shared.

Bishop Billyboy Ramahlele, UFS Director Community Engagement did the final honours by cutting the ribbon, declaring the lab open, and sharing the dream that the work done in this lab will contribute to positive relationships and cooperation between the university and the community, in making not only the university, but the country and the world a better place.

News Archive

Reflection should stimulate action – Prof Petersen

 Description: Panel discussion: Reflection should stimulate action  Tags: Panel discussion: Reflection should stimulate action

Panellists at a discussion held by the Institute for
Reconciliation and Social Justice were, from the left,
Prof Elelwani Ramugondo of the University of Cape Town,
Prof Melissa Steyn from Wits, Prof Francis Petersen,
Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, and SK Luwaca,
president of the Student Representative Council on the
Bloemfontein Campus.
Photo: Johan Roux

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The University of the Free State (UFS) should be a place of belonging, a place where staff, academics and students belong and can make a contribution to a democratic society.

This is according to Prof Francis Petersen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS. He was one of four panellists at a discussion, titled Diversity, inclusivity and social justice and the renewed call for decolonisation, hosted by the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice (IRSJ). Prof Elelwani Ramugondo from the University of Cape Town, Prof Melissa Steyn from Wits, and SK Luwaca, president of the Student Representative Council on the Bloemfontein Campus, were the other panellists.

The IRSJ facilitated the discussion, which formed part of the inauguration proceedings for Prof Petersen as new Vice-Chancellor and Rector, in the Albert Wessels Auditorium on the Bloemfontein Campus on 18 May 2017.

Renewed thinking about decolonisation

Prof Steyn said: “We can develop our vocabulary to understand our real differences.” She noted that we are all part of reproducing, resisting and reframing the current order.

Universities should be a place where questions can be asked, Prof Ramugondo said. She elaborated on the term decolonisation, saying we needed to investigate how we related and reflected on it, mentioning the myths that surrounded the term. “We should renew our thinking [about decolonisation] at universities,” she said.

“We can develop our vocabulary
to understand our real differences.”

What does a transformed UFS look like?
According to Luwaca unity isn’t something that can be faked, but everybody should work towards it, building a rainbow nation together. It is important for everyone to be on the same page: “We have to ask ourselves what a transformed university looks like.”

Prof Petersen said it was important to often pause and reflect: “Reflection should stimulate action. Reflection is not something without action.”

After the discussion, a lively question-and-answer session with the panellists took place. Prof André Keet, director of the IRSJ and facilitator of the discussion, suggested the gathering should be the start of many similar engagements.

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