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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. 

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UFS Digital Doorway project will change lives in Heidedal
2011-02-16

 
Learners of the Heidedal community looking at the new computer system.
Photo: Johan Roux

The combined effort of ICTISE (ICT Innovation in School Education), Reach and the Heidedal community saw a four-station Digital Doorway (computer system) being placed on the premises of Reach at the end of 2010. ICTISE is a programme of the University of the Free State (UFS) and operates from the university’s South Campus. This computer system will allow all Heidedal schools and community members to have free access to computers.

Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, opened the Digital Doorway by cutting a ceremonial ribbon with the assistance of one of the community’s learners.

The Digital Doorway concept originates from a joint initiative between the Department of Science and Technology and the Meraka Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The Digital Doorway consists of four screens and allows access to select content, including open-source application software. This includes audio books, subject textbooks, encyclopaedia, educational games such as “touch maths” and quizzes as well as useful information for school subjects and a newspaper especially for children.

The Heidedal Digital Doorway is the first of its kind in the Motheo District. Typically, one or two kids will be working on each of the computers, while up to five other learners will be giving instructions, allowing the whole group to learn. The Digital Doorway is a smart way of bridging the digital divide, bringing science and technology to our community and opening the doors of learning. ICTISE will support the Heidedal schools to make full use of this new facility by training teachers and community members.

“The UFS hopes that this project will change the lives of the Heidedal community by providing the youth with an opportunity to be in line with the changing world of technology,” said Ms Sarietjie Musgrave, Head: ICTISE.

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