Original Research - Special Collection: Unshackled

Community engagement as the organic link with the street: Creating a learning community between the academy and homeless people in Tshwane

Nico Botha
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 71, No 3 | a3118 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v71i3.3118 | © 2015 Nico Botha | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 July 2015 | Published: 25 November 2015

About the author(s)

Nico Botha, Department of Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology, University of South Africa, South Africa


Does the current community engagement project, of the Department of Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology at the University of South Africa (UNISA), respond to the conceptual discourse on community engagement? Informed by this question this article’s objective is two-pronged. Firstly, an attempt is made to locate the project’s beginning in a proper historical perspective by engaging the initial ministry of the Department with homeless people. The narrative about the work of a Mennonite couple is told by structuring it around the dimensions of agency (identification or insertion), context analysis, strategies for mission and theological reflection or in simple terms, the reading of the Bible. Secondly, this article proceeds by subjecting both the initial ministry with homeless people and the community engagement project, in its current form, to the scrutiny of three high ranking publications from the Higher Education Quality Committee in collaboration with JET Education Services, the Council on Higher Education and a handbook on service learning in South Africa on the conceptual clarification of service learning and community engagement. As the documents reveal some difference of opinion amongst the experts, the bottom-line is that unless the interaction between the academy and the community (homeless people) is a consistent, sustainable, reciprocal and mutual process aimed at creating a genuine learning community, the project is called into question. A further issue is that the engagement between the parties must find reflection in what is taught – students or learners are to benefit from this – and researched.


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