VUT COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT DEPARTMENT HOSTS A SOCIALLY ENGAGED SCHOLARSHIP WORKSHOP
By: Themba Nyovane – 10 May 2023
Prof Mondli Hlatshwayo addressing the audience.
Recently, the Vaal University of Technology (VUT)’s Community Engagement Department hosted a “Socially Engaged Scholarship” workshop at the Centre for Academic Development (CAD) Auditorium.
The purpose of this workshop was to unpack the significant role of higher education in community engagement (Socially Engaged Scholarship) and to determine its relevance and impact in South Africa and the rest of the African continent.
In his welcome speech, Dr Simphiwe Nelana, the acting deputy vice chancellor for research, innovation, commercialization, and internationalisation, noted that community engagement is often given short shrift at VUT, but adds that a lot still ought to be done. He further added that community engagement is an important pillar of the university that is underpinned by strategic goal 3 of the VUT Strategic Plan.
Besides posing the question of whether it is a crazy idea to put Community Engagement in teaching and learning, and if universities should prioritise community engagement as a crucial component, guest speaker, Prof Mondli Hlatshwayo from the University of Johannesburg, urged a rethinking of the universities’ structure. He pointed out that other countries have advanced because they were able to draw on the information they acquired from their institutions. He further suggested that VUT create a strategy document, a policy, and do an audit of VUT Community Engagement. “Additionally, the University should make sure that community engagement is included in its mission statement; Community engagement should be done in order to not repeat what is currently being done; perceive communities as resources and involve all stakeholders in order to solve local problems,” he concluded. Professor (Prof) Mondli Hlatshwayo from the University of Johannesburg graced the event as the keynote speaker.
According to Joseph Radebe, the Acting Director of Community Engagement at VUT, Community Engagement is relatively new in the higher education arena and is still emerging as a discipline and continues to challenge some academics. He added that academics and students ought to be encouraged to form part of Community Engagement in a form of service and thereby encouraging acting citizenship and engaged research.
“Vast opportunities from significant industries surround VUT. Additionally, VUT is located within the historical boundaries of communities like Sharpeville, Boipatong, and Sebokeng, he said, adding that collaboration with the local businesses, municipalities and communities could result in improved opportunities for the university and the region. “As a result, academics at the university have competence in bringing the socio-economic issues in the Vaal.”
In addition to the VUT Community and its alumni, the event was also attended by VUT Community, staff and students, social cohesion advocates, officials from the Department of Arts & Culture, representatives from National Education, Health, and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and Kopanong Hospital amongst many.