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Rhodes University :: Community Engagement
Magazines | Education 2011-08-14 14:41:02
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    03 11 33 47 leading by example A purposeful life Vice-Chancellor - Dr Saleem Badat investing in young people 04 07 09 12 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 Championing the cause of service learning Mandy Hlengwa Engaging through an unlikely discipline Martin Villet Getting the chemistry right Connecting with the global village Standing in the gap Doing science for real Helping young people make the headlines Developing muscles, minds and leadership Building a nation of readers Partnering with rural teachers Supporting children in their early years Creating a home for all promoting health and well-being 34 37 39 41 43 45 Learning to live and eat well Playing the beautiful game Making meaning of medicine together Pouring life into communities Growing the common ground Rediscovering our roots sharing rights and responsibilities 48 51 53 55 57 contents Creating opportunities for all Taking the law to the people Focusing on ability Making voices heard Working for justice

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    The young and the old, men and women - all have the agency to transform the new South Africa into a vibrant, empowering and caring society. On the meaning of true engagement 01 South Africa's young democracy offers immense opportunities to individuals and communities to make significant contributions to the empowerment, development and growth of citizens, society and country. The young and the old, men and women - all have the agency to transform the new South Africa into a vibrant, empowering and caring society. Like other universities, Rhodes University is serious about embracing this challenge and has elevated community engagement to stand alongside the University's other core purposes of teaching, learning and research. However, to think of community engagement separately to teaching and research would be missing the point. Community engagement initiatives at Rhodes are going beyond the traditional 'good deed' approach to occupy a more critical and strategic role of enhancing scholarship, development, social cohesion and social transformation. Many of the University's Faculties and Departments have understood the value of engaging communities as a vehicle to enriching and enhancing teaching and research that has mutually beneficial results. New spaces have been created in the community where learning is happening, and knowledge is being produced and applied, reworked and made ready for practice. Unexpected new 'teachers' have emerged through these initiatives in the community - people sharing their knowledge and expertise and facilitating an understanding of difference and other ways of approaching life. Pedro Tabensky, well-known Rhodes Philosophy professor , once commented that we need to foster the idea that a university experience is a privilege, not a degree factory that produces graduates with the sole purpose of accessing resources and goods from the 'upper crust' of society. He went on to ask, "If the University's responsibility is to generate and disseminate knowledge, how do we ensure that the knowledge acquired by students is contributing to the broader society?" In every society there are people who make things happen, who take risks, who see the bigger picture of cultivating humanity and actively shaping new ways of being. In this publication, we acknowledge and share some of the stories of our Rhodes citizens that we think reflect such a spirit. May their work serve to inspire us all. Diana Hornby Director: Community Engagement

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    02

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    Leading by example 03

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    "Leaders," Badat recently told a group of student volunteers, "never forget or look away or 'get used to' our social structures and relations, which underpin the coexistence of the unbridled accumulation of wealth and desperate and grinding poverty; great privileges for a small minority of rich and huge deprivation for a large majority of poor; unbound economic and social opportunities for some and the denial of such opportunities for many others." Indeed, in a world where 'bling' is increasingly revered, Badat overtly eschews what he terms the "culture of greed and crass materialism". So, if it's not about the money, what does motivate this no-frills man who works an average 80-hour week, walks to his many engagements and meetings, owns a run-of-the-mill car, flies economy class and stays at inexpensive accommodation when his work takes him abroad? In 2006 when he assumed the mantle of VC, he startled a jaded South Africa by rejecting his large salary and donating a large portion of it and many of his perks to the establishment of a scholarship fund named after his mentor Jakes Gerwel. Most of his top management approved and slowly adopted his practices - a culture Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor Dr Saleem Badat embodies a "humility and spirit of service in public life that is growing all too rare," seasoned journalist Ferial Haffajee said some years ago. It remains true today. Adrienne Carlisle spoke to Dr Badat about his leadership, his inspiration, and his passion for community engagement. A purposeful life of frugality now prevails. "Imagine how much money we are saving by not flying business class and by not staying in fivestar hotels." Several of his top management staff now also donates a portion of their salaries or benefits to plump up the bursary fund. To date, Dr Badat alone has donated over R1.5m to the fund which benefits disadvantaged students who would otherwise not have been able to afford a university education. Badat's passion for community engagement started with his involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle. "That's where my most formative learning happened. There I learnt about democracy and how important it is to participate even if you are illiterate. That's where I learnt how to take complex theoretical issues confronting South Africa and, through the prism of what was happening in other societies around the world, was able to share that with workers, students and others. And through that I became, immeasurably, a far better teacher." While South Africa now has its democracy, the struggle is far from over. South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world in terms of wealth, income, opportunities and living conditions. Badat finds the levels of inequality and income and opportunity differentials in South Africa and globally "deeply troubling" and it is here that he is determined to make a difference. 04

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    service humanity to He says most of Rhodes staff, especially its top researchers, lecturers and scientists, are not driven by money. "They are driven by a love of and passion for science, for research and producing new knowledge." And the 80 hours a week he puts in? "The hard work I am prepared to put in is because I believe in a certain kind of project and a certain kind of institution," he says. He wants Rhodes to be an institution that produces graduates that are concerned about people, social equity and justice. "The function of the University is not just to produce graduates to satisfy throughput rates - but rather to produce a particular kind of graduate," he says. With Dr Badat at the helm, Rhodes has become a university steeped in the idea of community engagement - which Badat believes goes a long way towards creating the type of student Rhodes would be proud of. Through community engagement students don't just acquire compassion and creativity but also knowledge, competencies and expertise not available in any lecture hall or laboratory. Along with research and teaching, community engagement has become a 05 core purpose at the University, with additional staff and funding. But Badat is adamant that community engagement can only become the third leg of a university if there is excellence in the university's primary roles of teaching and research. "It is on the basis of teaching and research that we connect with and build mutually respectful partnerships. But as a university you cannot take on high quality community engagement without being a high quality institution. Learning, teaching and research endeavours have to be of a high quality or what exactly are you going to partner with communities around? Communities deserve only the best and require knowledge, expertise, and long-term durable partnerships. Badat also warns that the University has to engage with the community in which it is embedded, for its own survival. "We are 17 years into our democracy and certain very fundamental and structural things have not changed in Grahamstown. There must be a deep understanding in the University that our future is inextricably tied in with this town. We must support the town and engage with it as far as socio-economic opportunities are concerned and around a whole lot of practical issues such as (municipal) services." The University is also forging long-term relationships with rural schools in the region, hoping to identify and cultivate talent early on. "This must not be a democracy that benefits only the rich. We need to give ordinary people an opportunity to share in our democracy and have their children come to university too," and this is where the Jakes Gerwel Bursary Fund comes into play. Perhaps idealistically, Badat believes that humans are not driven by selfish, envious, crass materialistic natures but rather find fulfilment in service to humanity. "That's why you exist on this earth - to create a better society in which everyone's intellect can flower ... instead of just wallowing in survival where they have to worry about where their next meal is coming from."

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    courage respect 06

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    "Service Learning is a pedagogical tool which is used within a course. It is a not a course in itself." Championing the cause of service learning 07 With this statement Mandy Hlengwa, Lecturer at the Centre for Education, Research, Teaching and Learning (CHERTL) sheds light on one of the forms of community engagement practiced at Rhodes University, and other South African academic institutions. Hlengwa joined CHERTL in 2007, and while people might associate Hlengwa's arrival with the start of the Service Learning enterprise, she very firmly sets them right. The portfolio existed before she arrived at CHERTL. However, it was a good fit with her interests and there can be no denying that she brings a vibrancy, under-laid by extensive theoretical knowledge, to the role. Service Learning is a relatively new teaching tool in South Africa. Hlengwa's role is to liaise with academics to strengthen current service learning initiatives or, where necessary, to assist the CE Office to help academics and/or community partners find each other and set up the partnership through which Service Learning takes place. There are certain factors which have to co-exist before a programme can truly be said to fall under the Service Learning mantle. Certainly while Service Learning projects all involve an element of community engagement, it is not true to say all community engagement projects are vehicles for Service Learning. Hlengwa explains that Service Learning needs to have what she refers to as a 'curriculum angle'. It is essential that it is an outcome within the students' course, which means, naturally, that it is creditbearing. Then there needs to be a reciprocal goal between, on the one hand the students, the relevant Department and the University and, on the other hand, the community organisation or site which will be working in partnership with them. Hlengwa admits that this is not always easy to achieve, particularly in the first instance of collaboration. But as confidence grows on both sides, the service learning relationship will start to bear fruit. Ideally the students will go out into the community and, through interacting with people, will discover just how applicable, or otherwise, their academic knowledge is in real-life situations. It is at this point that the third aspect required to fulfil the philosophical ideal of Service Learning comes into play. Through the medium of reflection (as in a journal or online blog) the information gathered by the students will be transferred back to the lecturer and the Departments concerned, and can be used as a resource for reworking academic content to better reflect actual conditions in the world beyond the university walls.

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