CEAD maps the way for further community engagement

Professor Busisiwe Nkonki-Mandleni, left, and Professor Nokuthula Sibiya

A week ago, Professor Nokuthula Sibiya, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research Innovation and Engagement, along with Professor Busisiwe Nkonki-Mandleni, the Director of the Community Engagement and Development Directorate, emphasized the need for universities to work with communities as equal partners.

The Engaging the World Through the African Perspective Conference (EWTAP), which CEAD and its partners hosted this week sought to contribute to this noble idea. Both professors reiterated that universities should cease to be ivory towers, and start engaging with local communities.

Professor Nkonki-Mandleni said that her directorate would ensure that projects conducted within the communities would be sustainable. This would require that the local communities be empowered so they would sustain the projects. This would include active participation in any historical research conducted within a particular community. This is a different definition of community engagement, a point that the conference sought to drive home. Conference delegates are hoping that such an approach would eventually contribute to decolonised universities and societies.

The conference also highlighted that institutions of higher learning should make it possible for the local communities to access their resources.

During the conference, it became clear that the bottom-up approach was adopted by the presenters. The conference chose this approach as a more humane way of putting communities’ views across, and gave the presenters a chance to learn from, and about the communities.

The organisers said the conference was a humanising project that faced up to the challenges of social, cognitive, cultural and economic injustices.  This approach also gave the presenters a chance to learn from the communities.