By NOBUHLE ZULU
With over 850 weekly student volunteers, a strong residence community engagement culture, and multiple service-learning courses, Rhodes University offers one of the country’s most extensive community engagement programs. The community engagement office works hand-in-hand with the Makhanda community by providing services such as mentoring, fundraising, and tutoring.
On Monday, Rhodes University Community Engagement (RUCE) held a webinar titled, ‘A way of being for the reimagination of our future: Learnings from Madiba’. The webinar focused on how higher education institutions can continue to keep the spirit of Madiba alive through community engagement.
RUCE director Diana Hornby said Rhodes engagement programmes were “very well-targeted” and that students were very well trained before they went into the sites. She described the programmes as mutually beneficial for the growth of students.
During the seminar, Rhodes Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, said universities should transform students into people who want change and who uphold the values of humanity. He said community engagement should not come from the point of pity but shared humanity.
Another panellist, Rhodes University’s Claire McCann, said it was far more essential to teach students to strive for a ‘Madiba life’ than to encourage them to participate in 67 minutes for Madiba. Aiming for a Madiba life ensured that students made community engagement a part of their lives rather than a 67-minute act of kindness.
The idea of being more deliberate in growing values and providing students with other skill sets stood out most for Hornby. “We should be proud of educating students for life and a living.” She said educating students also meant integrating them into the psychosocial care of the community.
One of RUCE’s goals is getting students to “unlearn charitable engagement” so they can see the learning opportunities for themselves in community work.
RUCE has had a significant impact on the community of Makhanda. With programs such as 9/10ths mentoring and service learning, the community’s educational needs are being met even outside of the classroom. Makhanda currently holds the title of leading educational city in the province, with an 83% matric pass rate in 2021. The community can see the impact and importance of such programmes.
Hornby expressed how privileged RUCE is to have a vice chancellor who believes in their work. She credited their success to the RUCE executives, the students, and the Makhanda community.