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Change the world


Working together in seeking solutions is a catch phrase of the Missionvale Care Centre, which has been providing access to health, well-being and education in an impoverished environment for the past 30 years.

Working together in seeking solutions is a catch phrase of the Missionvale Care Centre, which has been providing access to health, well-being and education in an impoverished environment for the past 30 years.

It is an approach that resonates with Nelson Mandela University as it strives to live the legacy of the former President after which it is named, especially in driving the importance of education as a force for good.

And so the two are working increasingly closer as agents of change for a better world.

“Though a formal MOU was signed in 2016, various sectors of the University were working with the Missionvale Care Centre long before then,” says Engagement Office Director Prof George de Lange.

“When you see what has been achieved, you understand why.”

From humble beginnings, when Sister Ethel began her ministry under a tree, reading stories and cleaning wounds in 1988, the Centre has grown into a fully-fledged campus that includes a primary school, skill development, adult basic education and training, a community hall, church, home-based care, a nutrition and wellness unit and clinic.

“The world needs more people like Sister Ethel with her commitment and unwavering vision despite the odds. Community development, which for me is human development, is a complex process … which requires a solidarity of many diverse actors,” says Mandela University Arts Faculty lecturer Gareth Williams.

Gareth is one of the many Mandela staff members who has been and continues to work with the Missionvale Care Centre (MCC) because of the benefits to both the community and Mandela staff and students.

The other sectors of the University involved come from:

  • Health Sciences (Psychology, Nursing)
  • Education
  • Science (Agriculture)

Arts (Music)

Gareth and other lecturers from the School of Music, Art and Design got involved with MCC in 2016 through a community music initiative which sees youth musicians teach music to school learners. About 20 learners came from MCC.

The Music Department’s relationship morphed as Gareth introduced overseas visitors to the Centre to showcase the wonderful work musicians are doing at Normoyle Primary School where flute, violin and marimbas feature. The various visits resulted in the MCC choir performing in the world premiere of ‘His Day is Done’ composed and conducted by Prof Ed Sarath from the University of Michigan, USA. The performance can be viewed by following the link:

In the same year, the University performed and collaborated with the choir as part of an international project called Friday Afternoons Music aimed at developing a passion for singing in young learners.


The Department of Agriculture’s relations with MCC began in 2014. There is an ongoing arrangement of providing agriculture workshops, urban agriculture training and in-service training support by our students on an ad hoc basis.

“Over the years, students have learnt a great deal about food security and the challenges of growing food in a township environment. This experience has led to one of our students running the aquaponics system in Missionvale and working for INMED school feeding programme,” says Agriculture’s Prof Tim Pittaway.

Psychology Clinic

Collaborative engagement between the university and its stakeholders, including underserviced and impoverished communities, is at the core of Missionvale Psychology Clinic (MPC).

According to Dr Jennifer Jansen, the clinic provides essential services to a community that would otherwise have no or little access to such services, while also providing the university’s students with an opportunity to integrate theoretical work with practical application.

“Projects that have evolved from the transdisciplinary platform include support groups for care workers at the MCC, individual consultations and health promotion activities, psycho-educational workshops on protective behaviours, sexuality, self-esteem and HIV support groups,” says Dr Jansen.


Staff from the Faculty of Education are presently working with the Missionvale Care Centre to reimagine Normoyle Primary School using a critical participatory approach involving the MCC, the educators, learners and the community.

The work of the Centre for the Community School began last year with the establishment of the project team, and will expand to include more projects, more staff and students.

“This is a unique project because school is technically a private school in a working class community. Allowing us to engage and think in a different space offers a great possibility for reciprocal learning,” says Dr Bruce Damons, who heads the Centre.

Various other interactions are in the pipeline following the signing of the MOU following the Centre’s own strategic planning process with collaboration in the fields of research, development, training, student involvement and the sharing of knowledge in the fields of health, education, science and engineering.

SYMBOLIC PARTNERSHIP … The University’s Psychology Clinic represented by (from left) Sihle Ntlangu, Dr Jennifer Jansen and Terence Townsend, presented Sister Ethel Normoyle with two trees in recognition of the 30 years she and the Missionvale Care Centre have served that community.

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057