Community Engagement: An Instrument for Applied Rural-Based Research and Development in (South) Africa

Community Engagement: An Instrument for Applied Rural-Based Research and Development in (South) Africa

Tshimangadzo Selina Mudau (Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, South Africa)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2306-3.ch013
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The chapter presents the use of community engagement as a tool to facilitate rural development in (South) Africa. In its discussion, the researcher used desktop literature review to analyze, compare, and gain insights guiding the use of community engagement to enhance social transformation and sustainable development. The discussion is advanced from the historical background of the emergence of African universities and community engagement. The focus was reflected against the backdrop of the Western approach used among various global universities. In this view, the underpinning objectives, relationship with the researched, and the role of the researching university are detailed. Practical evidence of positive collaborative results within the (South) African communities within the rural and urban communities by universities and other organizations have also been provided. A contrast of various types of community engagement is also provided.
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The History Of Community Engagement

In the early development of higher education, teaching and learning was the core function of the university (Boyer, 1996). The teaching function was even recommended and endorsed by scholars like John Elliot in 1623 and Benjamin Rush in 1798 in Northern America. In 1862, during the days of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed the historic Land Grant Act, which gave higher education institutions (HEI) in America an opportunity to advance agricultural, technological and industrial revolutions (Boyer, 1996). Contrary to the American approach, in colonial and apartheid (South) Africa for instance, the university was structured in a way that would have facilitated a higher education system which would only advance society based on race and social class (Preece, 2013; Tumuheki, 2017). Higher education was streamlined on White and Black racial divisions (Mafukata 2019). The fruition of President Lincoln’s proclamation was noticed years later and acknowledged by the president of Harvard University, Professor Charles Eliot, and Professor Woodrow Wilson of the Princeton University in 1896. Although President Lincoln’s advancement of agricultural, technological and industrial revolutions (Boyer, 1996) in America did not categorically state that America’s higher education should be research-based, it is evident that the president’s ideas would only have been made possible through intensification and advancement of higher education research and development. The concept of higher education research in America is relatively young, appearing for the first time post-1870 when this concept was engineered and formalized in England. The concept ‘research’ was formally introduced in England in 1870 by reformers who aimed to advance teaching and learning at Cambridge and Oxford Universities. It was later introduced in the American higher education system by Daniel Coit Gilman in 1906 (Boyer, 1990).

Collaboration with communities started in the early 1800 and continued in the 1900s as land grant opportunities and contemporary collaboration in the 20th century (Cloete & Maassen, 2015; Roper & Hirth, 2005). From the inception of the university in Italy, namely the University of Bologna in 1088, the university has been known for considering teaching as its core function (Mugabi, 2015). The evolution process of the university established the added functions in teaching and research (Davidovitch et al., 2016), and later CE (Preece, 2017). Universities have always been known as places of hierarchy, departmental organizations, and authority structures dominating higher education through top-down knowledge transfer systems (Watson, 2007). Such dominance in higher education by university academics and structures has been noted and grown to a point where college graduates are regarded as inferior (Tumuheki, 2017). Such inferiority has pushed some to register for additional or advanced courses to feel socially and academically accepted and recognized (Tumuheki, 2017). The hierarchal positions of the university also bestowed academics with the power of dominance over community members or research participants (Weerts and Sandman, 2008). Such an approach renders community participants as subordinates characterized by inferior knowledge, and therefore of lower status compared to academics (Cloete & Maassen, 2015). Evidently, the issue of knowledge creation and dissemination becomes an output of power. The university – through academics is regarded as more powerful than the researched – that is, the community. The concept of Community Engagement (CE) comes to the fore based on these factors, and it is premised that CE would seek to redress the inequality in community research.

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