Service learning: Connecting higher education and civil society – Are we meeting the challenge?

  • B Naidoo
  • B Devnarain


The decline in civic participation, dwindling support for social services and deficits in state budgets, has created a climate in which higher education, supported by several policies, has to make a commitment to contribute to the reconstruction and development of society by linking academic programmes to community-based priorities (Campbell 2002). In South Africa, the Community Higher Education Service Partnership (CHESP)
was implemented by the Joint Education Trust in response to the directive of the White Paper on Higher Education (1997) to develop and research pilot academic programmes through community, university and service sector partnerships. The purpose of these partnerships was to: contribute to the empowerment and development of local communities; make higher education policy and practice responsive to community priorities, and, enhance service delivery to participating communities (Lazarus 2001). It
was anticipated that these partnerships would inspire a sense of citizenship; engender new forms of problem solving knowledge; capacity and practice; produce a new generation of leaders, and, contribute to national development (Nuttal, Bruzas and Mosime 2000). To test the relevance and practical application of these holistic and developmental concepts this article which is based on an intensive study undertaken at
five university sites with ten multidisciplinary modules, explores the position of service learning and its impact on partnerships. The conclusion reached was that although the ultimate aim was to connect higher education and civil society, the formalisation of existing policies and institutional arrangements are necessary to facilitate meaningful

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eISSN: 1011-3487