Community engagement is his passion

Prof Aaron Tshidzumba, deputy dean for community engagement, business development and stakeholder relations in the North-West University’s (NWU’s) Faculty of Humanities, has made substantial contributions to his field of expertise and the growth of the university.

As an associate professor, he teaches broadcasting, journalism, and corporate and development communication. His academic journey reflects his passion for exploring the intricate nuances of language, culture and communication.

Based at the Mahikeng Campus, Prof Tshidzumba has been involved in community engagement projects such as the Digital Skills Literacy project which forms part of the NWU COLAB project - funded by the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa, an entity of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Technologies.

This project provides community members in the North West province with basic computer literacy skills and the opportunity to obtain professional certificates from Microsoft, Amazon, Coursera and IBM.

He says thus far more than 200 people have been trained during 2023, 80 of them cleaners from the Mahikeng Campus who received Microsoft certificates.

The Digital Skills Literacy project also provides MICT SETA training for individuals working in community radio, and so far, more than 25 people from the Northern Cape and Free State participated.

Prof Tshidzumba is also involved in the School of Language’s BUA Poetry project, which entails a poetry competition across the NWU’s three campuses. More than 60 participants recently presented their poems at the Vanderbijlpark Campus and the project is now on its way to the Mahikeng Campus.

“When it comes to community engagement, we are reaching out to schools and the next generation,” he says.

The School of Social Sciences is in charge of a vegetable garden at a high school in Potchefstroom, and Prof Tshidzumba is coordinating the School of Philosophy’s adoption of three schools in Tshidilamolomo, a rural area outside Mahikeng.

“Recently, we had a session on career guidance with more than 100 learners, and we also showed them how to apply online to the NWU,” he adds.

He says the Faculty of Humanities is proud of their “aftercare” – they stay in contact with their projects and check on their project partners every two months.

His take on community engagement

Prof Tshidzumba defines community engagement as the process whereby universities engage with community stakeholders to undertake joint activities that are mutually beneficial.

“Community refers broad range of external university stakeholders – government, businesses, NGOs, social enterprises, cultural organisations, schools and citizens – with emphasis on those communities with fewer resources.”

He adds that community engagement also refers to how the university interconnects with external partners in terms of engaged scholarship that civil society, industry and government need.

“There should be co-determination and interdependence between the university and community through open dialogue.

“Despite the consensus for a need for engaged and socially responsible universities, there are still differences in terms of the modes and the activities to be employed for engagement and responsibility.”

Prof Aaron Tshidzumba

Submitted on Thu, 09/28/2023 - 12:58