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30 March 2021 | Story Dikgapane Makgetha | Photo Supplied
Social Work students at the UFS are working with the relevant stakeholders in an Engaged Teaching and Learning service-learning project to promote and respect children’s rights.

The protection of children’s rights is the principal achievement on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 Agenda. Emphasis has always been on the promotion and respect of children’s rights. Since the SDGs are grounded in a child rights-based approach, the University of the Free State (UFS) Social Work students – by engaging in a multi-disciplinary methodology – involve all the relevant stakeholders in their Engaged Teaching and Learning service-learning module project. 

The social partners, which included the South African Police Service (Child Protection Unit), the Department of Social Development, the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Health, faith-based organisations, and other children’s advocacy agents, were involved from inception until the apex launch of the project. 

Access to basic human rights

In their exit level, fourth-year Social Work students participate in community work practicums, which incorporates the theoretical development process in adherence to the objectives of their community work. The initial phase of the project involved the situation analysis exercise, which the students implemented through collaboration with the Rekgonne Primary School action committee. 

The outcome of the survey indicated that some learners were exposed to physical and sexual abuse. It was also found that they did not have access to basic human rights such as education, health care, and social grants due to the absence of the required legal documents. From the interactive discussions that took place during the launch, it emerged that some children do not have birth certificates required for school registration and access to social grants. 

Through the students’ community project, a platform was created where important skills and information could be shared among all important role players (who are in different professions and guardians of children’s human rights). It is believed that since learners are spending more hours in school, educators would be the primary detectors to notice signs of negligence and potentially adverse circumstances among their learners.

Role players collaborate to make a difference

Through the scholarship of engagement, students succeeded in engaging with the community to attend to societal challenges (violated children’s rights). In order to realise the outcome of the project, continuous collaboration among all role players must be sustained. All parties adopted a resolution to create safe environments both at school and at home by supporting families and caregivers.

Government partners that participated were determined to strengthen protection systems and improve child welfare, reinforcing the implementation of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005.  Educators were empowered and supported in the mandate of the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC). This is an initiative that involves stakeholders in improving the quality of education for all children and addresses issues of safety and well-being for all children. 

News Archive

New book recommends “rethinking of university readiness”
2015-06-01

A young man draws himself standing behind a brick wall in darkness, striving in vain to reach success and sunshine on the other side. This drawing aptly illustrates the focus of Dr Merridy Wilson-Strydom’s book University Access and Success: Capabilities, diversity and social justice.

Using the capabilities approach, Dr Wilson-Strydom considers the individual wellbeing and quality of life of students as central metrics for understanding access and success. Based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative research, including focus groups, written reflections and drawings, interviews, and participatory workshops, she identifies seven key capabilities needed for a student to successfully transition to university life, namely:

  1. Practical reason
  2. Knowledge and imagination
  3. Learning disposition
  4. Social relations and social networks
  5. Respect, dignity and recognition
  6. Emotional health
  7. Language competence and confidence

At the launch of the book at the UFS recently, Prof Sandra Boni, from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia in Spain, said: “From a methodological perspective, this book is an excellent contribution in the educational research domain ... It brings a richness of data that allows the author to explore in a deeper way the personal characteristics and the social factors that influence the capability [of students] to participate. ... This book offers interesting avenues for action in the university realm.”

Dr Lis Lange, Vice-Rector: Academic at the UFS, said at the same event: “We will have to rethink what we are doing and how we are doing it. I would like to make it prescribed reading for all deans and HODs.”

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