Empowering students to make a difference
Image: Student facilitators, Abduragmaan Alexander (SPU), Phumza Qwaqwa (UCT), Pelonomi Itumeleng (SPU), Danielle Shay (UCT) and Tebogo Ebuang (SPU) while on training at UCT. Credit: Jerome September
“We want our students to go back into the community and make a difference”, words of purpose from Jerome September, Head of Student Affairs at Sol Plaatje University (SPU) in Kimberly, when asked about the reason for the new SPU partnership with the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Global Citizenship Programme (GCP).
Together the universities are launching a pilot course under the title ‘Active Citizenship through Deliberation and Dialogue’. Similar to the UCT GCP, the course will run once a week for six weeks and create a space where students can have meaningful conversations around topical issues - such as homophobia, racism and privilege - affecting our democracy today and at the same time develop the skills necessary to have these conversations. Students will participate in a co-learning experience, developing an awareness of themselves in relation to broader social systems of power and privilege, while gaining practical tools in dialogue skills and different forms of engagement.
The main aim of the programme is to provide students with these tools so that they are able to see themselves beyond academic spaces and use the tools they have learned to really make a difference in their communities. According to Jerome, it is “about how do we name the demon and begin the process of addressing the issues that come with that demon in order to reach decolonised and transformed spaces.”
Earlier this month Jerome and three student facilitators joined a number of UCT GCP staff for a weekend of training. The course will have three student facilitators from SPU and two from UCT collaborating and making use of online environments. Participants will also be required to work across the universities on various projects. The main purpose of the weekend was to empower the student facilitators to roll out the course on the two campuses while thinking about how to incorporate their own institutional dialogue and at the same time be cognisant of inter-institutional learning.
This programme, funded by the DG Murray Trust, aims to to push students' boundaries and has resulted in a partnership of mutual benefit, mutual respect and mutual learning between SPU and UCT. Jerome is also very grateful that when SPU extended the hand of a possible partnership to UCT, the university accepted and hopes that “as much as we’re learning from UCT we hope UCT will learn from us as we also have much to offer.” A sentiment shared by all on the GCP.