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08 December 2020 | Story Dikgapane Makhetha | Photo Supplied
UFS partners
At the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement between the UFS and local community radio stations were, from the left (front row): Lebogang Matolong, Station Manager of Motheo FM, and Prof Puleng LenkaBula, Vice-Rector: Institutional Change, Student Affairs, and Community Engagement. At the back (standing), are from the left: Mohau Rampeta, Programme Manager of Motheo FM, and Bishop Billyboy Ramahlele, Director: Community Engagement.

In response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Directorate: Community Engagement (CE) has initiated an innovative platform on which students can continue to engage with university community partners, and at the same time be assessed for their service-learning and community engagement projects. 

The E-Engagement approach also meets the University of the Free State’s (UFS) strategic mandate to be a caring, responsive, and engaged university. Coordinated by the UFS CE office, academic staff and students are scheduled to engage with the community partners through radio broadcasts and virtual mode platforms. Informative content that has been researched, prepared, and presented by students in a pre-recorded format, will address significant issues brought about by the surge of COVID-19, creating a breeding ground for some of the societal ills, such as gender-based violence (GBV).

In order to establish sustainable relationships with community radio stations, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with two local community radio stations was signed on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus on 10 October 2020. Prof Puleng LenkaBula, the Vice-Rector: Institutional Change, Student Affairs, and Community Engagement, and Bishop Billyboy Ramahlele, CE Director, participated in the commitment to formalise the relationship between the UFS and the two radio stations, Mosupatsela FM and Motheo FM.

Master’s students from the Department of Psychology have produced and pre-recorded podcasts on community psychology. Their topics covered grief and self-compassion. The Department of Nutrition and Dietetics presented topics on a healthy lifestyle and diet. Fourth-year students from the School of Nursing have engaged new mothers concerning post-natal care. The School of Clinical Medicine has addressed the warning signs of burnout and preventative measures.

Bishop Ramahlele emphasised the importance of sustained relationship, which is expected to create further opportunities for interaction through partnerships in skills training (ICT) and the sharing of resources, including consultations through conference platforms. Prof LenkaBula highlighted the significance of the MOA by applauding the initiative, which has unlimited potential to ensure national development through student engagement, since universities create development sites that can be transferred further into the community. 

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