Action Research Unit
Funded by AusAID
This project originated from the realisation of the need for both supervisors (academics) and post-graduate students to be trained in community engagement research. Such research is a core function of the university, but few academics or students have the necessary skills and knowledge to embark on this kind of research and publish their work to maximise learning from it. The Faculty of Education at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (Port Elizabeth) and the faculty of Education Sciences Research Focus Area at North West University (Potchefstroom) identified research for social change as a key focus area, but few of their academics have the necessary experience to head up such research. The social, economic and health inequalities in South Africa make such research a priority. We proceed from the viewpoint that the university has a moral responsibility to improve the quality of life of the community in which it operates. The short learning programmes proposed to develop academics and post-graduate students in this field have been successfully developed, taught, continuously evaluated and reviewed over many years in various countries, e.g. in Austria at the University of Innsbruck (1995-2008) and the Management Centre Innsbruck (2009-2012) as well as many times in Africa (University of Stellenbosch, TUT, University of Pretoria etc). This will be the first time that two 5 day workshops are linked to a larger project.
The communities which these universities serve (like the majority of communities in South Africa) are beset by social, economic and health problems. There has been a resultant shift in the core functions of a university since democracy was attained in this country, to include community engagement as one of the three main functions of a university (the others being teaching and research). Universities can no longer create knowledge for knowledge sake – they are morally bound to make a positive difference in the welfare of others through the creation of relevant knowledge and skills. Training in participative and collaborative research strategies, underpinned by an emancipatory and values-based paradigm, will enable university staff and students to fulfil this mandate and contribute in a meaningful way to improving the social conditions of the communities that they serve. The philosophy of the proposed programme dovetails perfectly with our objectives: ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’ (6th century Chinese philosopher, Laotsu). Apart from the fact that most post-graduate students live and work and fulfil professional helping roles in the community, we intend to include some key representatives who head up helping/development agencies in the community so that they can also cascade their learning to others.
L Wood Project Coordinator
B Pretorius Project Administrator
Tel: +27 (0) 41 504 1111
Fax: +27 (0) 41 504 2574 / 2731
PO Box 77000, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Port Elizabeth, 6031, South Africa
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