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Public intellectual engagement and community involvement has been a constant preoccupation and a key activity of CERT staff. Community engagement occurs through research and advocacy projects, close relations with civil society and community organisations and serving on ministerial committees appointed by the Basic and Higher Education Ministries. CERT supported grassroots advocacy, dialogue and research through a number of centre activities in 2014. These activities engaged over 4 000 individuals and over 25 different institutions in the Vaal and in communities proximate to the UJ campus. Some highlight activities include the Neville Alexander Commemorative Conference (UJ October 2014), the Angry Youth Workshop (Braamfontein Nov 2014), the ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Shadows’ Human Rights Art Exhibition (Sebokeng June 2014), and the Emerging Voices 2 Radio Programme on Thetha FM (Orange Farm June-July 2014).
The Community Profile and Education Project
Last year (2014) CERT embarked on a project to identify communities in the immediate vicinity of the Bunting Road Campus as sites of learning and research. The “Fietas” area was earmarked. The project initiated discussion between present residents, former residents, community based organisations, education institutions – schools in the area and surrounds, as well as with individuals at UJ, in the Department of Educational Psychology, in the Faculty of Art Design and Architecture (FADA), and UJ Student Support.
The scope increased to include areas where CERT already had a presence through the Emerging Voices (EV2) project and Community Literacy and Numeracy Groups (CLING)
CERT staff members have continued community dialogues with organisations in the areas where we work. Our interaction has spawned a number of collaborative projects that will produce research that is relevant and encourage participatory partnerships between academic institutions and community groups
Reading Clubs and Reading Groups (Homework Centers)
At the beginning of the 2014 school year, CERT, FADA and UJ Student Support members visited schools in the Fietas and surrounding areas to canvass support to establish reading clubs for learners who reside in Fietas. We met with the principals of: Piet Van Vuuren Primary School, New Nation School, EP Bowman Primary School and the social worker at the Jan Hofmeyer Recreation Centre. There was general consensus that such an initiative will be of great benefit.
We found that there are twenty four learners at the Phuthaditjhaba Homeless Shelter in Fietas and successfully negotiated for a space to set up a reading group and a homework centre there. We secured donations of desks, bookshelves chairs and books. The Phuthaditjhaba Reading Club/ Homework Centre and the Jan Hofmeyer Reading Club will open in February 2015.
Students from UJ will assist with this project (through Ms Memoona Mohamed from Student Support)
CERT staff members have been instrumental in setting up and supporting reading clubs in other areas. The Neville Alexander Commemorative Conference hosted by CERT in November 2014, allowed us the opportunity to share ideas and network to increase the phenomenon.
Rethinking the Archives: Kliptown, Fietas, Westbury Experience Design and Archive project.
Community histories are rich with oral accounts, artefacts, photographs and organisational records, but in most cases they are poorly documented and do not reach their full potential as a resource. CERT has brought together community groups, UJ staff in the Department of Educational Psychology, in the Faculty of Art Design and Architecture (FADA) and UJ Student Support, to establish community archives in Kliptown, Fietas and Westbury.
The archives will collate and preserve the collective memory in an organised form and will become a valuable learning resource. It offers opportunity for various research projects in its compilation and development.
The Legacy Project
Many individuals and organisations have contributed to community building over the years. The Legacy Project is the initiative of activists from a number of communities around Johannesburg. It seeks to highlight the impact made by individuals and organisations on society. This will be done through a combination of public lectures and discussions about the individual/organisation concerned, where the work will be showcased in the form of artefacts, publications, music and other art forms and with particular reference to contemporary application and expression through present-day organisational practice. The Project will include the categories of politics, education, art, history and sport. It aims to present divergent perspectives, and therefore contentious issues in order for open discourse and fresh ideas to emerge. In presenting our collective past through known, as well as not so well remembered entities (individuals and organisations), this knowledge and awareness will contribute to vibrant positive community activism, social cohesion and nation building.
The Project will continue conversations with and about individuals and organisations to research learning patterns outside of formal schooling. One objective is to have dedicated spaces in communities (community archives) where these resources can be accessed and used to better understand the communities we live in, with a view to inspire creative participatory interventions that improve the quality of life.