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Change the world


An exciting new partnership is on the cards between Nelson Mandela University and Ubuntu Pathways, with the institutions effectively seeking to cement a longstanding informal collaboration that spans many years.

The two institutions, whose work is anchored in addressing some of the prevailing social challenges affecting the communities they serve, are working on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) around various areas of possible collaboration.

The looming partnership speaks directly to the Hubs of Convergence (HoC) framework as articulated in Mandela University Vice-Chancellor, Prof Sibongile Muthwa’s inaugural address in 2018.

The hubs, as envisaged and currently being implemented, are “physical spaces where the University meets community to engage on common platforms to find solutions to practical problems that affect our immediate communities”.

They provide an outward focus, and aim to benefit from the intellectual and other assets of the University, as well as the conscious wisdom of the communities surrounding the institution.

During a visit to the Ubuntu Pathways Campus in the Gqeberha township of Zwide last week, Prof Muthwa – accompanied by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Engagement and Transformation, Prof Andre Keet, and HoC leader, Dr Bruce Damons – expressed her gratitude at the opportunity to converge with the organisation that has had such a great social impact in the community.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to partner with Ubuntu Pathways. For us, as an academic institution, the work we have undertaken towards reimagining the role of the University and what it does, not as something else, but an extension of the institution, is the improvement of humanity. That, for us, is essentially the critical role of the university,” said Prof Muthwa.

“Seeing what Ubuntu Pathways has done and practically achieved is really worth learning from in terms of bringing about change in the community. Our philosophy is to come to learn, co-create and work together. We have staff and students who are agents of goodwill who would be beyond proud to actively work with Ubuntu.”

Ubuntu Pathways is a non-profit organisation that, since its inception in 1999, aims to break the cycle of poverty by providing South Africa’s most vulnerable children with what all children deserve, every day. The centre has grown into a thriving community institution in the heart of Gqeberha’s townships, as well as a global model for poverty alleviation.

Ubuntu’s Managing Director, Ms Tarryn Mthimkhulu said with the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year, the centre had seen an unprecedented need for deep, community-wide reforms.

“To catalyse meaningful transformation on this scale, no one institution can be effective in isolation. Thus, we propose the exploration of a formal memorandum of understanding between Ubuntu Pathways and Mandela University,” said Ms Mthumkhulu.

“We would like the University to become part of a community hub of convergence, where resources are shared and thus most efficiently deployed to contribute towards social change.”

The Ubuntu Campus has a state-of-the-art paediatric-HIV medical facility, an Early Childhood Development (ECD) Programme and Primary School providing world-class education for 222 children aged two to nine years old, and a Job Skills Training (JST) Programme provides vocational training and placement support to non-university-tracked youths between the ages of 18 and 28.

These bode well with the University’s work in the areas of youth development, health sciences and early childhood development, and essentially serve as potential areas of collaboration.

The Ubuntu Clinic has an integrated approach to healthcare provision, offering a wide range of services that include primary and preventative healthcare, HIV treatment and psychosocial services. This model is similar to the University’s interprofessional education model, where students within the various health sciences disciplines train in an intergrated manner.

“Our model of the Medical School is based on our understanding of how a university that trains health sciences students should approach health sciences education. It is to understand the burden of disease, to understand the issues from the vantage point of communities and not to have a sanitised approach to healthcare response, but to have responses that are informed by the realities of the communities,” said Prof Muthwa.

“That is why, as a first of its kind in the country, our medical students from first year are going to be out in the field – which is usually done in the fourth year of study. We also pride ourselves on the interprofessional training model, which will see medical students, social workers, pharmacists, dieticians, human movement sciences students are going to be training together in practical spaces like these, schools and other training platforms.

“So we look forward to adding Ubuntu Pathways to the various laboratories where our students will learn.”

The institutions are working to develop a formal MOU that will guide the partnership aimed at addressing some of the social challenges in the community.

UNITY IS POWER: Nelson Mandela University Vice-Chancellor, Prof Sibongile Muthwa (centre), discusses the partnership with Ubuntu Pathways Managing Director, Ms Tarryn Mthimkhulu (left) and Deputy President, Mr Gcobani Zonke, outside the Ubuntu Pathways Campus in Zwide.

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