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The office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Innovation and Engagement at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) hosted the second Community Engagement Projects Showcase and Excellence Awards 2021 on Microsoft Teams last Tuesday, 14 December 2021.

Staff, students, and social partners were honoured for showing exceptional commitment to community engagement projects in the past 12 months, to serve communities in line with the values, principles, and objectives of DUT’s ENVISION2030.

The Programme Director was Ms Philisiwe Cele who began by introducing DUT’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Engagement, Professor Sibusiso Moyo.

In her opening remarks, Prof Moyo said it gives her great pleasure to welcome everyone to the second Community Engagement Projects Showcase and Excellence Awards.

“I also recognise the work that is done by all of our colleagues, students, and our partners who work beyond the boundaries of their normal work. As the University, we are an organisation that contributes to skills training, and we train many students, some might be mature students who come to us as adult learners and of course, many students come straight from matric. What is important is for us to think about what happens to our students as they progress through the higher education sector. As DUT, we are interested in understanding our students and their graduate attributes. When they finish, we want them to be able to adapt to changes, be able to be sensitive to what is happening in our communities, and understand how we, including DUT employees, can contribute to transforming our communities and to uplifting everyone in our communities.”

Prof Moyo acknowledged the DUT partners who have joined the University in the journey of training the current and future generations. She conveyed a special recognition to Dr Mahmoud Youssef Baker from IQRAA Trust, who has been with the University for a long time and assisted in a number of projects. She also acknowledged the guest speaker, Mr Tsietsi Ngobese, CEO of Wesolve4x Consultancy, and Ms Phakamile Mazibuko from the Phakamile Mazibuko Foundation, who has assisted DUT to increase the impact of the school engagement programme. Prof Moyo further recognised Ms Tracy Khuzwayo from Umkhumbane Schools Project for reaching out to DUT and working with DUT’s project Level 6 students who have been interested in some of the collaborated projects.

Lastly, Prof Moyo acknowledged the DUT staff and students who pitched their projects, saying without them DUT will not be able to make the impact it makes. Not forgetting the Community Engagement Committee members.

The guest speaker, Mr Tsietsi Ngobese (27) from WeSolve4X Consultancy spoke about Being an Engaged Citizen-Lessons for Students. “In each one of us there is a possibility to shine, and without education there will never be an opportunity to better oneself, to change, and to help others. For us to understand the transformative power of education and the role it plays in transforming diverse communities, we need to understand that as citizens, students, or graduates that before the title, we are humans. As part of growing up in an environment where hunger has been a constant thread of our existence, day in day out, we need to understand that the opportunity we are given to advance in terms of education, can never be realised if we ignore the communities that we come from in our background, in making sure that we use our skills to advance our societies,” said Ngobese.

He revealed that after graduating from the University of Free State, he declined 15 job offers to pursue his very own company, which is called WeSolve4X, where he is solving the world’s problems one equation at a time. Ngobese said when establishing his business, he was looking at how he can make the most impactful mechanism and advance the knowledge system of his very own community. He mentioned that he had to use classrooms to engage with the people from his area where he encouraged them to start their home gardening and also clean illegal dumpsites, which were also turned into community gardens, helping to fight hunger and poverty.

Ngobese challenged graduates and professionals to go back into their communities to assist street vendors, neighbors, and communities to get rid of poverty so that they do not later become a threat to them because of hunger. He said that risk can be mitigated by sharing knowledge with those that are not fortunate enough to walk through the doors of higher education institutions.

“So we need a generation of problem solvers. The challenges of my neighbour will also affect me, so I need to be part of that solution. We are no longer accepting things that we cannot change, but we are changing things that we cannot accept by making sure that we educate our very own communities in our very own backyard,” concluded Ngobese.

Announcing the recipients of the Community Engagement Excellence Awards was Ms Phumzile Xulu, Community Engagement Practitioner at DUT. Xulu said she was honoured to be announcing staff and students that have been tirelessly putting all efforts and their time and resources to support their communities in various ways. She also acknowledged Prof Moyo for allowing and supporting this kind of recognition saying it is much needed to encourage people to do this hard work, especially now during the time of COVID-19.

The winners were:

  • Winner for the Community Engagement Student of the Year: Fanie Ndlovu.
  • Winner for the Community Engagement Staff of the Year: Ms Nontokozo Ngcobo.
  • Winner for the Community Engagement Staff of the Year: Mr Ebrahim Asmal.
  • Winner for the Community Engagement Social Partner of the Year: Iqraa Trust.

All winners were given a few minutes to give their responses. They all expressed their appreciation to DUT for the recognition.

The second session of the event was the announcing of Top five selected projects for the Community Engagement Showcase Awards in both the students and staff categories. This session was facilitated by Ms Nonhlanhla Nyandeni. Project leaders of the selected projects were each given two minutes to present their projects.

The top three selected projects winners in the students’ category were:

  • 3rd position, winning R10 000 was Womentech Inspire.
  • 2nd position, winning R20 000 was River Clean-up.
  • 1st position, winning R30 000 was SyaDudula Young Entrepreneurial Minds.

In the staff category, the top three winning projects were:

  • 3rd position, winning R10 000 was 3D Face Shields.
  • 2nd position, winning R20 000 was IOT Community Outreach Programme.
  • Sharing the 1st position, winning R25 000 each was One Residence One Garden and Teaching Public Health Through the Use of Photovoice.

Delivering the vote of thanks on behalf of the Community Engagement Committee, Ms Ugeshni Moodley extended a special thanks to the DVC: RIE Prof Moyo who is also the chair of the committee, for her guidance and continued championing to grow community engagement within DUT. She also expressed her gratitude to the guest speaker, Mr Ngobese, and all the students and staff who received awards for their dedication to serving the communities.

Pictured: One of DUT’s Community Engagement Projects where a group of teachers attended the IoT Training with DUT’s Mr Ebrahim Asmal.

Simangele Zuma

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