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17 July 2020 | Story Nitha Ramnath | Photo iStock
The UFS initiated a new community engagement programme to help communities take charge of their lives.

The University of the Free State (UFS) is launching a new community engagement programme to help communities take charge of their lives during and after the national lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The E-Community Engagement Programme will run for the duration of the lockdown to ensure that the UFS continues to serve all people. This programme is one of more than 120 community development programmes and projects that the UFS is involved with this year.

Rev Billyboy Ramahlele, Director: Community Engagement, says this strategy is the result of the Institutional Transformation Plan, which seeks to deepen the university’s commitment towards the betterment of our communities by creating sustainable partnerships for development. “This programme is dedicated to assisting communities to take charge of their lives during and after this pandemic and will focus on sustainable livelihoods and family support”, he says.

With these community development programmes and projects, about 3 000 UFS students spend at least 127 000 hours per year engaging in 73 service-learning modules. This excludes the clinical work done by our medical and education students in the community through community-based education and inter-professional learning. The university’s 22 student volunteer associations play an important role in community development projects. Our academics and researchers contribute their intellectual resources through their involvement, teaching, and research in different aspects of community life.

The E-Community Engagement Programme refers to an alternative online/virtual community engagement platform aimed at facilitating continuously negotiated collaborations and partnerships between the UFS and the interest groups that it interacts with, aimed at building and exchanging the knowledge, skills, expertise, and resources required to develop and sustain society. Such alternative engagement stems from adapting physical face-to-face (f2f) community engagement to an e-environment. As a result of the uncertain state of restricted f2f engagement during the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus of participation, dialogue, engaged learning, and teaching by university staff and students is on citizens actively participating in the development of their own lives and that of their surrounding communities.

Details of the E-Community Engagement Programme will soon be published on the UFS website, and will be presented on radio and online in partnership with Motheo FM, Mosupatsela FM, Kovsie FM, Mangaung Municipality, Towers of Hope, Princess Gabo Foundation, Rock Foundation, Bloemshelter, and all our faculties.

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