Community Engagement: Some of the key projects of 2017

Community Engagement: Some of the key projects of 2017
Community Engagement: Some of the key projects of 2017

Following the Community Engagements Awards earlier this week, where student volunteers and community partners were honoured and encouraged for their efforts towards actively seeking social change and justice within the community, here are some highlights of the work by Rhodes University and the Grahamstown Community.

Nine-Tenths Mentoring Programme

The Vice-Chancellor’s Nine-Tenths is a mentoring programme designed to equip matric students from the three earmarked schools of excellence in Grahamstown with the capacity to cope with their final year studies and achieve a bachelor pass.

There are 90 Rhodes University student mentors for at least 56 pupils from Mary Waters, Nombulelo and Ntsika High School, respectively. Through nine guided and structured contact sessions, learners are given one-on-one attention that has seen them improve the pass rate of their schools.

Ntsika High School’s pass rate increased to 87% and Mary Waters achieved a 70% pass rate since the initiation of the programme. Of the 51 learners that obtained bachelor passes from these schools, 35 were part of the Nine-Tenths programme.  Although Nombulelo High School only joined the programme this year, there is already visible improvement on the results of the learners.

Vuyolwethu Zumani, a Nine-Tenths mentee, passed with five distinctions and was one of the top achievers in the district. He is currently studying towards a BSc degree at Rhodes University majoring in Maths and Statistics. At least 18 of the mentees have applied to study at Rhodes in 2018.

“We continue to mould this valuable programme to further improve the relationships and success of Rhodes University and the Grahamstown community. Thank you to the student leaders and senior mentors who have put in hours of motivation and administration,” said Benita Bobo, Student Volunteer Programme Co-Ordinator for RUCE.

The programme has formed formidable collaborations with partners that develop material, assist with training, follow up with schools and facilitate meetings.  


Student Volunteer Programme

The Student Volunteer Programme (SVP) is a volunteerism programme open to Rhodes University students. Students are recruited and trained for placement with community partner organisations whose mandate falls under these different categories:

-          Arts and Alternative Education

-          Care

-          High School Tutoring and Mentoring

-          Literacy and Homework

The Programme welcomed seven new partners that will serve as a platform for activities around the four themes listed above.

-          The Creative City Project - embraces a range of projects, which, collectively, help make Grahamstown one of the most creative cities in the country.

-          The Parent Engagement PC Training Programme

-          The Parent Engagement Mentoring Programme

-          Digital Storytelling

-          Awarenet - an international inclusive social network open to all leaners

-          Sun City Reading and Mathematics Club, and

-          Umthathi Training Project - promoting a better and organic quality of life through sustainable healthy living. The project builds capacity in organic food production, nutrition, income generation and the cultivation and conservation of useful indigenous plants.

Students are required to volunteer a few hours each term and to engage in quarterly reflections with their teams. Transport is provided to all community partner organisations.

A team of 25 student leaders is responsible for at least 400 student volunteers. Six student leaders were part of the top 11 students nominated for the Gold Award at the RUCE Annual award ceremony held recently.

A student leader represented Rhodes at the International Community Engagement conference in May. The programme attracted six exchange students who had an impeccable volunteer attendance record of 100%.

Early Childhood Development Residence Programme

The Early Childhood Development (ECD) Residence Programme, now in its second year, sees RU residence halls partner with an ECD Centre to work on the following two projects.

The Siyakhana@Makana (S@M) Programme is a 19-week joint planning, execution and reflection process of community engagement activities between community representatives and volunteer managers. Each year the ECD Centres come up with three goals to accomplish with CE representatives.

The second is the Reading Programme, which is in its first year, initiated to build on learners’ literacy and numeracy skills. Student volunteers from residences visit their partner ECD Centre in the mornings once a week to do reading and educational activities.

This year the programme introduced three new partners:

-          Gladys Williams Creche

-          The Centre for Social Development Toy Library at St Mary’s DCC, and

-          Ikhaya Losizo

All partner groups in the ECD Residence Programme managed to fulfil at least two of their respective three goals centred on school readiness, acquisition of additional resources and renovations. Reflecting on this past year, both partners and students highlighted good partnerships, personal growth, and relationship building as their key highlights of this year.

Four students were up for the Gold Awards, and three partners were finalists for the Community Partner of the Year award.

Early Childhood Development


Fifteen organisations collaborated with residences and halls to provide educational programs tailored to suit the specific needs of Grahamstown. This signals improvement in the creation of partnerships for skills sharing and co-creation of knowledge.

During Trading Live for Nelson Mandela Week, most partners participated fully and learnt from one another, thus building sustainable relationships of reciprocity.

“What Trading Live has given birth to, is the innovation of an integrated approach of the ‘each one, teach one’ model. Our community partners have moved away from working in silos and have started working together more regularly,” said Bobo.

The Parent Engagement Programme

The Parent Engagement Programme (PEP) is an initiative that is part of the VC’s Education Initiative to Revive Grahamstown Schools. Members of staff, who are in the salary scales of Grade 1 to 5, and who have children in school, are invited to join the programme designed to assist them to best support their children’s educational development.

“The buy-in from parents has been enormous this year with 121 registered parents and 168 learners. Of the121, 95 have attended most of the workshops designed to upskill them, which is remarkable as the commitment was lacking in 2016,” Bobo said.

Parents attend four workshops during the course of the year, all tailored towards the different educational stages of their children. Seven parents are now literacy development activists within their own communities.

Lithalethu Mashiya, a learner from the programme, has received a Diocesan School for Girls scholarship. Baye Fall was part of the Rhodes University Siyanqoba junior A-team and competed in the South African Mathematics Team Competition. Olwethu Lukwe, a Grade 12 learner at Mary Waters has ensured that her June examination results qualify her for entry at Rhodes University next year.

“The programme is still young and the commitment shown by the parents indicates that the VC’s vision of reviving Grahamstown’s public schools will be achieved, one year at a time,” commended Bobo.


Engaged Learning and Research

Engaged learning and research work across all faculties has continued to grow with  the Science and Pharmacy Faculties in particular doing outstanding work in the community engagement space.

Six departments in the Science Internship Program have hosted at least 30 learners this year. The second Science Open Day saw approximately 450 local learners participate in 19 activities across campus for National Science Week.

The mobile science lab has taken knowledge, resources and lively interaction to local schools through a partnership with the Microbiology department. Beyond the long-standing courses, the Science Faculty at Honours level introduced two new service-learning courses.

Human Kinetics and Ergonomics students worked in partnership with the Waainek community mass rearing facility; and Environmental Science students worked in partnership with the Amakala Foundation and Patterson High School.

Epistemic Justice - Scholarship of Engagement

The emerging discipline of the Scholarship of Engagement is gaining momentum internationally, and RUCE is establishing itself as a national hub of research and postgraduate study with the newly developed Centre for Epistemic Justice headed up by Dr Sharli Paphitis.

This is a National Research Foundation (NRF) funded transdisciplinary research project targeting engaged research. The Project currently hosts a postdoctoral fellow, and eight postgraduate students from honours to PHD level.

Community Engagement Conference

RUCE and Durban University of Technology co-hosted the annual Community Engagement conference in Durban earlier this year. Eleven Community Engagement staff and students presented their community engagement based research - bringing together transdisciplinary teams to tackle issues of local importance collectively and in participatory ways.

The Community Engagement office with the combined efforts of faculties and community partners are championing the challenge to bridge the deep divides which poverty has scoured across the community, bringing together new learning and capacity to model a different and better future, in South Africa, in the Eastern Cape and specifically in Grahamstown.

Source:  Communications

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