The University of Zululand (UNIZULU), through its Community Engagement office, held a three-day workshop last week which was aimed at capacitating staff with appropriate community engagement skills and principles of community-based research (CBR).
Held at the Bon Hotel in Empangeni, the workshop was centred around participation in and execution of CBR. The topics of discussion included appreciation of collaboration; sharing of ideas and challenges; forming networks and support groups to promote an inclusive, supportive, productive and satisfying research and development culture; and the capacity to sustain this culture.
The workshop was facilitated by Professor (Prof) Lesley Angelina Wood from North-West University. Differentiating between community service and community engagement, Prof Wood emphasised that academics be wary not to confuse the two. She also noted that great values and principles are major contributing factors of a successful community engagement project.
“There are certain qualities that one needs to possess before starting or when involved in a community engagement project or community-based research. Among those qualities is respect. You must be mindful of how you speak because communities practice different cultures and have experienced different realities. So you need to be wary of your words and assumptions,” she cautioned.
She counted teamwork, trust, good communication and forming relationships as equally significant factors.
Mammusa Lekoa, UNIZULU Community Engagement Manager, expressed great delight and satisfaction at the participation of and commitment shown by staff throughout the three days. According to her, the event was a success mostly because of the active participation of staff who willingly shared their expertise and experiences during the discussions.
The workshop was regarded a great success by the attendees as well. Rachel Mkhasibe, a lecturer in the Faculty of Education said the event was an eye-opener and that it exceeded all her expectations.
Attendees of the Community Engagement workshop were equipped with appropriate community engagement skills and principles of community-based research (CBR).