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Twenty-three universities gather for annual symposium
Twenty-three universities gather for annual symposium
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Twenty-three universities gather for annual symposium

Date Released: Wed, 9 May 2018 15:50 +0200

As part of Rhodes University’s Community Engagement Week (CE Week), delegates from 23 different universities gathered at the National English Literary Museum (NELM) in Grahamstown for the 4th annual Community Engagement & Social Innovation Symposium, done in partnership with Durban University of Technology.

“Due to the logistics involved for most of you to get to Grahamstown, we decided to cluster various events into this week,” explained Diana Hornby, Rhodes University’s Director of Community Engagement.

Taking place as part of CE Week, before today’s official opening of the three-day Symposium, NELM hosted members of the South African Higher Education Community Engagement Forum (SAHECEF) for their quarterly meeting, chaired by Ms Bibi Bouwman from North-West University. This important organisation was founded in 2009 as a national forum to represent all community engagement and services learning departments and initiatives of South African higher education institutions.

Welcoming delegates to the Symposium, Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, said, “The position of universities within our society has never been simultaneously more vulnerable nor important. May this conference be a significant watermark in our quest to use knowledge as a catalyst for the realisation of a society and world free of hunger, want, inequality, and despair.”

Of the 23 universities represented, delegates from 17 local and six international universities were in attendance, with representatives from 11 different universities presenting.

Later this evening, the winner of the Rhodes Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Award for Community Engagement 2017, Professor Jacqueline Akhurst, will be holding a plenary session at the Eden Grove Complex. 

Furthermore, a Gala Dinner will be taking place at the Wyvern Club at Kingswood College on Thursday evening, before the Symposium and CE Week officially concludes on Friday afternoon.

Thus far, the week’s proceedings also included a meeting between members of the Common Good First (CGF) Project – a digital project which will link community projects in South Africa to each other and to higher education institutions around the world. This meeting, attended by representatives of six South African universities and six European partners, was led by Julie Adair, Director of Digital Collaboration at Glasgow Caledonian University. Other delegates hailed from Spain, England, Denmark, Iceland and Norway. The project is funded by the European Union, who had a representative from Brussels present at the meeting.

Taking place at the same time as the Common Good First meeting was a Training of Trainers course for academics, teachers and facilitators on Digital Storytelling. The Rhodes Community Engagement Office developed the course materials with input from partners, after piloting the process with students, academics and community organisations.

“May you, at the end of this important Symposium, leave Rhodes University with a renewed sense of hope and optimism that tomorrow will be a better day than today,” Dr Mabizela said in closing.