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A university committed to building social cohesion

Unisa is committed to supporting social prosperity and growth in the local, national and international communities in which it operates. A certificate ceremony recently took place at Gauteng Region's Ekurhuleni Service Centre, honouring women who attended classes and received training in various skills.

Some students came to the event wearing clothing they designed and sewn themselves

Together, building stronger communities

The certificate ceremony was a historic moment for the Unisa Women's Forum (UWF) and all its collaborators, namely, South African Women in Dialogue (SAWID), Chance2Advance (C2A), the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and the College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET), marking the success of a pilot study for the Engaged Scholarship Project since the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement. The project's purpose was to upskill communities, the Ekurhuleni campus being a pilot site, and to ensure that surrounding communities attain sustainable development in key areas of need, such as soft skills, computer skills, sewing, crop farming and cooking skills. The training of the Daveyton community was made possible by collaboration between various partners. Unisa's Department of Life and Consumer Sciences led food security, sewing and hospitality training. Chance2Advance focused on providing training on mental health issues, financial skills, human rights and disability issues. The College of Science, Engineering and Technology provided training in computer skills, which the School of Computing facilitated.

The day's celebrations began when Moipone Masalesa, Regional Director: Gauteng Region, welcomed the audience and spoke about the work of the UWF and SAWID and their collaborators and how it contributes to the women of the community. "In addition to providing the pilot site, colleagues in the Gauteng Region (Ekurhuleni) offered much-needed support to the leadership of the UWF and partners to ensure that the project becomes a success," she said. She continued to thank Patricia Lethole, Manager of the Ekurhuleni Regional Centre, and Hector Mothudi, Tutorial Officer in Gauteng Region (Ekurhuleni), who had acted as one of the facilitators and provided much-needed support.

Shaping futures in the service of humanity

Prof Puleng LenkaBula

Prof Puleng LenkaBula, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Unisa, indicated that the ceremony was an impactful moment in the university's history since it touched directly on the university's vision of shaping futures in the service of humanity. She expressed her appreciation for the efforts of the UWF, SAWID, the colleges and all partners. The VC said to certificate recipients: "Once we invite you to the doors of learning, the horizons of experimentation, spaces of meaning-making, inventions, impacting society through your knowledge immediately open for you." She continued: "At Unisa, we encourage lifelong learning. Education is not separate; it should be part of us to assist in solving societal problems, including poverty, inequality and gender-based violence, that our country is facing." She added: "We encourage you to look at Unisa as a partner and as an institution committed to fighting the challenges of colonialism that made it difficult for us to recognise our dreams and aspirations."  

Women from SAWID

Girlie Madumezulu, Acting Executive Director in SAWID, congratulated the certificate recipients. "You have received an opportunity to stand on top of the mountain and to see that there are possibilities available for you," she said. Dr Florence Malongane, Head of Academic Quality Assurance and Enhancement and Senior Lecturer in the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, conveyed the CAES's congratulatory message to the certificate recipients. "The certification today reiterates Unisa's commitment to forging strategic partnerships with various bodies and institutions to facilitate engaged scholarship activities and to better coordinate community engagement activities for maximum impact," she said.

Speaking on behalf of students, Mirriam Mbonani expressed gratitude to the VC for giving the Daveyton community such an amazing opportunity. "Ungazisoli ngathi, siphethe igolide" (roughly translated: "you will not regret your decision, we are carrying gold"), she said. She further appreciated Unisa's leadership, along with its partners and facilitators, for being patient with them. She said they can now plant, bake, and even sew because of Unisa. Some students came to the event wearing clothing they designed and sewn themselves.

Dr Thuli Shandu Petla, a UWF executive member, entertained the audience at various intervals. Her singing and poetic skills got the audience ululating. Dr Florence Malongane from CAES, one of the facilitators, also congratulated the certificate recipients. She expressed gratitude to the facilitators for embracing the concept of community engagement, which will assist in improving the status of communities. CAES provided training that was tailor-made for the community of Daveyton. On-site training was offered, including sewing, crop farming, gardening, cooking, nutrition and food safety, among other things. In addition, online classes were presented on organic farming, pest and disease control, and various other topics. "The lessons learnt in this research will culminate into engaged research where the community and researchers at Unisa will work together to solve our problems," said Malongane.

Dr Enid Bunki Pitsoane, Head Counselling Gauteng Region, Moipone Masalesa, Gauteng Regional Director, Prof Puleng LenkaBula, Unisa Vice-Chancellor and Principal, and Vhahangwele Lethole, Ekurhuleni Regional Services Centre Manager: Gauteng Region

Propelled towards greatness

In delivering her congratulatory message, Prof Meahabo Magano, Chairperson of the UWF, expressed her appreciation for the VC's clear articulation of her vision for the university. She elaborated that the VC's engagement encouraged the UWF and partners to work hard to ensure that the Engaged Scholarship Project becomes a reality. She further encouraged the certificate recipients to start businesses and to be ethical in everything they do. "As you work with various communities, always remember to do it with integrity," she said. Magano also gave recognition and appreciation to the sponsor, Khebi Sibanyoni.

A plea for Ekurhuleni Regional Centre to be a community engagement hub

The day ended joyously as the ladies received certificates from various partners and collaborators. Community leaders and members from surrounding areas also honoured the invitation to support the graduates. Lethole closed the ceremony by expressing her excitement over the successful event. She congratulated the VC and all collaborators on the successful project. She further requested that the Ekurhuleni Regional Centre becomes a community engagement hub. Finally, to students, she said: "This should not be your last day at Unisa; we encourage you to continue learning with us," concluded Lethole.

* By Thembeka Ntuli-Mpapama, Communication and Marketing Manager, Gauteng Region

Publish date: 2022/09/28