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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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Department of Political Studies and Governance involved in regional seminar on peace and security in Southern Africa
2012-09-26

Attending the Lusaka seminar was from the left: Prof. Hussein Solomon; Prof. Virgil Hawkins from Osaka University and main organiser of the seminar; and Prof. Theo Neethling.
26 September 2012

Two staff members from the Department of Political Studies and Governance, Prof. Hussein Solomon and Prof. Theo Neethling, were recently invited by the Osaka University in Japan to participate in a regional seminar in Lusaka, Zambia, on multinational peacekeeping and peace enforcement in Southern Africa.

The seminar was organised by the Southern African Centre for Collaboration on Peace and Security funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. Prof. Solomon presented a paper on the establishment of the Southern African contingent of the African Union’s African Standby Force, while Prof. Neethling presented his paper on United Nations peacekeeping operations in the war-ravaged eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The participation of Prof. Solomon, Senior Professor, and Prof. Neethling, Head of the Department of Political Studies and Governance, comes from a cooperation agreement between Osaka University’s School for International Public Policy (OSIPP) and the Faculty of Humanities at the University of the Free State. The agreement covers issues like joint collaboration projects, the exchange of staff and senior students and joint conferences. One of the key joint areas lay in the Southern African Centre for Peace and Security Studies, a consortium of several Southern African universities with Osaka University and the University of the Free State as its key pillars.

Other universities include the University of Zambia, Zambian Open University, University of Dar es Salaam, Mozambique-Tanzania Centre for Foreign Relations. Academics from other universities in the region, like Nzuzu University in Malawi, University of Botswana, University of South Africa, Stellenbosch University, University of Zimbabwe, are all in the network.

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