An integrated mentoring strategy for service learning in higher education
AbstractHigher education in South Africa, in general, has been charged with the lack of clear strategy and commitment to relevant teaching and research that is grounded in experiential and emancipatory approaches to learning, especially given the dearth of institutional responsiveness to social responsibility. The result is that students have not been sufficiently prepared as graduates to meet the demands of socially responsible citizenship. As a pedagogy, service learning aims to link higher education institutional curricular work to communities and in such a way become responsive in terms of teaching, learning and research which seek to engage the realities and needs of local communities. In this process students and institutions themselves become beneficiaries of this engagement. Against the backdrop of the broader political and social transformation and that of education in particular, most institutions of higher education seem not to be able to respond to the requirements of the National Higher Education Plan in terms of implementing programmes which are in line with the criteria of responsiveness and relevance in their teaching and research. Whilst introducing service learning into their curricular approach may in itself be radical or strange for some institutions, its actual incorporation into their programmes may require very strategic mentoring processes for its adoption and practical rolling out of plans to succeed. This article advocates that mentoring, whatever the local context, is neither the exclusive prerogative nor the exclusive function of the teaching staff. The article argues that, to be effective, mentoring processes should be integrated into the broader domain of student learning and development and will of necessity take on many different hues, shapes and purposes in terms of student and community needs on the one hand and the demands of institutional and academic programmes on the other. With regard to those academic disciplines which seek to introduce service learning into their teaching and research programmes, this article advocates and explores an integrated mentor scheme which ought to meet the personal, academic and future professional needs of students. Instead of focussing on a limited notion in the selection of mentoring strategies for vulnerable students only, the authors argue towards the need for developing a thorough understanding of the nature and purpose of the learning context and its incumbent relationships in which the student, institution and the community creatively develop and, as a result, re-invent themselves to optimise their capital and ongoing growth.
South African Journal of Higher Education Vol.18(2) 2004: 359-370