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Nelson Mandela University and the Donald Woods Foundation have joined hands in a bid to tackle some of the prevailing challenges faced by the poor people of the Eastern Cape, in particular around health.


The province remains one of the poorest in the country, marred by a myriad of seemingly insurmountable socioeconomic challenges.

On Monday (29 July), the University and Foundation – represented by Vice-Chancellor Prof Sibongile Muthwa and Lord Peter Hain respectively – signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will identify broad areas of joint interest and action, with the initial focus on initiatives around healthcare.

Prof Muthwa said that as an engaged institution, Mandela University believes that the role of universities should be to have its scholarship in service to society, making a meaningful impact on communities.

“We have gone public with doing what all universities want to do around engagement, but we want to base our scholarship in service to society, using it to address some of the challenges faced by our communities,” said Prof Muthwa.

“So ours is to ensure that the university is not an enclave, but works with a cross-sector of people to make a meaningful impact to society. This is very important to us and the Donald Woods Foundation aligns with this.”

The DWF, set up in 2003 in memory of anti-apartheid activist and campaigning journalist Donald Woods, is a non-governmental organisation whose primary objective is to work closely with local communities, traditional leaders and the three spheres of government to develop programmes that are impactful, effective and which meet the specific needs of the communities in which it operates, with a special focus on rural communities in the Eastern Cape.

Its mission is to focus on the most alienated, least supported people living furthest from the road, clinic or utilities, empowering local residents and building foundations for real and lasting improvements in infrastructure, healthcare, education and skills development.

“This innovative agreement between Nelson Mandela University and the Donald Woods Foundation will break new frontiers in health provision delivered in a remote rural, poverty-stricken part of the Transkei not far from Madiba’s birthplace,” said Lord Hain.

“It will enable our work to be linked with the University Medical School’s training, research, delivery and funding.  So DWF will not only be improving frontline health care around our Centre at Hobeni as we have been doing for years by training local Community Health Outreach Workers, but also contributing to frontline training of doctors and nurses.”

It is anticipated that as the partnership develops, specific SLAs will be drafted within this broad framework, setting out details of specific partnership interventions and programmes around other areas such education.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Sibongile Muthwa signs the Memorandum of Understanding with Lord Peter Hain of the Donald Woods Foundation.

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