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Bright Site Project

The way we work

The pillars of Higher Education

The three interconnected pillars of Higher Education in South Africa are teaching and learning, community engagement and research.  These are also the pillars on which the Bright Site project was developed and which guide the way we work.  This interconnectedness is illustrated using figure 1.

Our Approach

The way we work at the Bright Site approach is developmental, participatory, person-centred and needs-based.  This implies:

 Figure 1: The interconnected pillars of higher education
Figure 1: The interconnected pillars of higher education.
  • Collaboration with other stakeholders in the communities and the university.
  • Participatory management of the project and service learning centres which facilitates high levels of participation by students and service beneficiaries.
  • The self-identify of the students, communities and service beneficiaries is respected and the focus of teaching and learning, service and research.
  • The needs of service beneficiaries, communities, students and researchers are of carefully balanced.

Pillar 1:  Community Engagement

In the Bright Site project the community is viewed as the context for research and service learning, as well as the focus and beneficiary of research and service learning.  In terms of our approach the focus is on building collaborative partnerships which includes the various departments, institutes and centres of Unisa and the various stakeholders within the community.

These partnerships with stakeholders from within the community and Unisa are illustrated in Figures 2 and 3 below as examples.

 Figure 2: Interaction between the Bright Site and community stakeholders    Figure 3: Interaction between the Bright Site and Unisa stakeholders
Figure 2: Interaction between the Bright Site and
community stakeholders
  Figure 3: Interaction between the Bright Site and
Unisa stakeholders

The engagement with the community includes bringing together the resources of Unisa and those within the community to the benefit of the community. This includes activities such as capacity building for organizations, facilitating change processes and the development of short learning programmes.

Examples from Bright Site Sunnnyside

  • Capacity building:  Workshops for welfare organizations have been facilitated by staff members from the Bright Site, the Department of Social Work and other Departments within Unisa depending on the expertise needed. Unisa  has vast resources of expertise.
  • Short learning Programme (SLP) on “Refugee law and Humanitarian support” will be launched in 2011. This  SLP  originated from  collaboration between the  Bright Site, UNHCR and the  Verloren van Themaat centre for Public and Consitutional law.
  • English classes for foreigners: In collaboration with the UNHCR the Bright Site initiated English classes for foreigners in Sunnyside. Currently the English classes are taken over by an organization called “Jesuit Refugee Services” with the support from the UNHCR and the Dept of English Studies at Unisa.
  • Social Change: A very successful social integration project celebrating heritage day was held in 2010.  This was a collaboration facilitated by the Bright Site which included most of the Unisa and community stakeholders.

Examples from Bright Site Durban:

  • Capacity Building in Gender Violence in HIV/AIDS into community development: A workshop for NGOs coordinated by the Bright Site  Durban and presented by Unit for Social Behaviour Studies in HIV/AIDS and Health (USBAH) and Directorate of Community Engagement and Outreach.
  • Training of peer educators in HIV AIDS related topics to equip UNISA students with skills to address HIV/AIDS related issues, in their personal lives, on campus and within locally specific communities
  • Isnembe HCTcampaign to commemorate International AIDS Day partnering New Start, Youth Aid, Lovelife, the local councilor, Dept of Health, Dept of Social Development and community members.
  • Isnembe Fun Day- engaging social work students in developing play amongst Isnembe Secondary pupils  (pre school to Grade 9)
  • Unisa HCT Campaign to coincide with Unisa KZN regions International Week in collaboration with Love Life, New Start, Siyangoba, DramAide

Pillar 2:  Service Learning

Service learning links with the teaching and learning pillar of higher education. The Council for Higher Education (CHE) places emphasis on service learning as applied learning directed at the needs of the community and integrated into an academic programme and curriculum. The Unisa Bright Site Service Centres are developed according to the model proposed by the council:

 Figure 4: Model of beneficial relationship between the students and the community
Figure 4: Model of beneficial relationship between the students and the community

The South African Council for Social Service professions required a qualification for social work to include practical work by 4th level social work students.  The Bright Site functions as a service learning Site where the students are placed to render services to identified communities via the NGO’s, schools, welfare organizations in the communities.

This model illustrated in Figure 5 demonstrates that the Dept of Social Work allocates students to the Bright Site Service Centre. These students render services like casework, group work, community work through the various organisations under the supervision and guidance of the Bright Site.  Thereby they render services to the community whilst the capacity of existing organisations is strengthened.

 Figure 5: Services through existing organisations by students
Figure 5: Services through existing organisations by students

Figure 6 demonstrates the model used by the Department of Social Work to select and appoint a supervisor for every 5 students to guide the student’s work in the respective organizations and to facilitate ongoing learning through the process. A networker from the Bright Site is responsible for identifying new organisations and to build and maintain relationships with the organizations in the communities, which ensure continuous growth in the network of collaborative organizations.

 Figure 6: Supervision model

Figure 6: Supervision model

The growth of the project is visible through the growth of the number of students placed at the Bright Site Service Centres:
Students placed at the Bright Site Service Centre:  Sunnyside

  • 2009- 7 students
  • 2010- 18 students
  • 2011- 35 students

Students placed at the Bright Site Service Centre: Durban

  • 2011- 24

Other Departments

The Bright Site Service Centre provides service learning opportunities to other departments.  The Department of Psychology has engaged their Master students in Clinical Psychology under the guidance of Prof Stan Lifschits.  This will however continue to grow as other departments start to engage.

Pillar 3:  Research

Research in service learning and community engagement context is explained under research on this website. The research at the Bright Site focuses on issues within the communities that can inform practice.  There is also a strong link between teaching and learning and research for the social work students and each of them engage in a research project during their placement at the Bright Site Service learning centre. 

We are proud that the Bright Site offer research opportunities to  any academic within Unisa. Already there are collaboration with the Department of Sociology, Religious studies and the Department of Further Education. There are also academics from the University of Johannesburg who collaborate in the research projects.

See the research projects already completed and in process.