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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

UFS celebrates Kagiso Trust’s 30 years of commitment to the empowerment of impoverished communities
2015-07-15

From the left are: MEC Tate Makgoe, Free State Department of Education; Busi Tshabalala, Thabo Mofutsanyana Education District Director; Dean Zwo Nevhutalu,  Kagiso Trust Trustee  and UFS Director of Community Engagement, Bishop, Billy Ramahlele.
Photo: ?Thabo Kessah

Future sustainable partnerships in education will survive only if all partners are committed, honest, and transparent.

This is the view expressed by the Free State MEC for Education and UFS Council member, Tate Makgoe, during the panel discussion at the Qwaqwa Campus of the University of the Free State celebrating Kagiso Trust’s 30 years of commitment to the empowerment of impoverished communities. The topic was “The future partnership models for education in Africa”.

“Over the years, the partnership between the Free State Department of Education, the UFS, and Kagiso Trust has helped to expose the potential in our mainly rural children in the Qwaqwa area of the Thabo Mofutsanyana district,” said Makgoe.

”When we started in 2009, the matric pass rate in the district was 64%, and this rose to 87% in 2014. In Qwaqwa alone, we have managed to build 51 computer and 26 physical sciences laboratories. It was these laboratories that enabled the Free State to be the best performing province in the Physical Sciences in 2013,” added Makgoe.

“None of these achievements would have been possible if all the partners had not been committed to the course. Partnerships built on honesty and transparency are the best model, which we hope to export to other provinces and, indeed, countries,” Makgoe said.

Representing the UFS on the panel was the Director of Community Engagement, Bishop Billy Ramahlele, who added that collaborations can be successful only if the leadership was exemplary.

“As the university, we have had many collaboration with various government departments, and great strides have been achieved only with the Department of Education under the leadership of MEC Makgoe,” said Ramahlele.

”With the MEC on board, the UFS ended up dedicating its South Campus in Bloemfontein to supporting Free State schools. We now have 70 schools that benefit from live television broadcasts of lessons by some of our outstanding academics. This also enables our best academics to make a valued contribution to empowering our teachers. It also allows the university to maximise scarce resources to attain social cohesion,” he said.

In his remarks, Kagiso Trust Trustee, Dean Zwo Nevhutalu, said that Kagiso Trust was looking forward to continue working with its partners to maximise outcomes through limited resources.

“Kagiso Trust will continue to work with the poor and the marginalised and there is no better partner than the government itself. The government provides basic services, and education is one of them. This allows us to be innovative and not just dump books and equipment at schools because we are forced to by our corporate social investment obligations. Therefore, we challenge the government also to be innovative in building a sustainable future partnership model in education,” he said.

Among the dignitaries attending the panel discussion were Kagiso Trust Chairman, Dr Frank Chikane, and the late Dr Beyers Naude’s family.

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