As part of the University of Pretoria’s University Social Responsibility Month, a group of UP students and lecturers last week shared information about their community engagement work in displays at UP’s Hatfield Campus.
EnactusUP, the local chapter of an international organisation that inspires students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action, exhibited bricks made from coal ash, and encouraged small businesses who want to scale up their businesses to ask for help. “We are a non-profit organisation and we help small businesses. However, those businesses must be environmentally sustainable and also make a difference in society for community members to benefit from,” said second-year BCom Marketing Management student Thembeka Sgudla. “It is very exciting to exhibit our work here today. It’s important for people to know what we do, and that our work is aimed at giving back to communities.”
UP’s Faculty of Education exhibited books of art that UP students had helped create by working with a local school at which Art is not offered as a subject. “This project forms part of our fourth-year Art Education students’ methodology module,” said lecturer Delene Human. Fellow lecturer Jani de Bruyn said, “Our students need to go out into the community and do their practical experience there, but first they need to identify challenges in a particular area and find solutions.”
The Rautenbach Hall was a hive of activity as students exhibited their projects.
Students from UP’s Department of Social Work and Criminology showcased water buckets with taps, designed for a primary school. “We also encourage our students to go green and take care of the environment. It’s exciting to witness what our students can do,” said lecturer Gerna Wessels.
UP’s University Social Responsibility Month is aimed at celebrating and making visible the work the University’s students and staff do on a daily basis in local communities and the larger South African and global society.
According to Gernia van Niekerk, UP Community Engagement Manager, “The institution has a rich culture of social responsibility and with this project we are trying to feature the work and activities that the university does through its curriculum-related community engagement and voluntary community programmes. This exhibition is going to be followed by an e-book that will be available on the web for our worldwide colleagues to be aware of what the institution is up to.” Van Niekerk says the project started in 2018, and will be run annually.
Community partner Meleney Kriel, whose Viva Foundation South Africa centre in Mamelodi East is being utilised as one of the hubs for UP community engagement projects, said her centre is honoured to be part of UP’s community engagement team, and she is grateful for this fruitful relationship.
Professor Norman Duncan at the opening ceremony
UP’s Vice-Principal: Academic, Professor Norman Duncan, said, “Students’ involvement in social responsibility initiatives provides them with the opportunity to acquire the attributes that the institution believes will be essential for their functioning in the world of work, and the world more broadly. These attributes include appreciation of the value of cultural diversity, social equality and social justice, as well as the capacity to develop good interpersonal skills and the skills required to assist in solving the problems of local communities.”