Development of a community engagement capacity building programme within a social justice framework for Consumer Science Food and Nutrition students at the Durban University of Technology
The focus of this study is to develop a capacity building programme that prepares students for service learning (SL) with the purpose of developing social responsibility and active critical citizenship underpinned by a social justice paradigm at a University of Technology (UoT). In developing countries such as South Africa that still experience severe injustices and inequality of access to, for example, certain services such as health services, it is impossible to ignore issues of human and
... al development and poverty reduction when promoting the university's role in development. The developmental role of HEIs has been reinforced through the introduction and formalization of Community Engagement (CE) as a core function of higher education together with teaching and learning and research. When examining the role of universities in educating students for social responsibility and critical citizenship, it is evident that the biggest area of growth of CE has been in the form of Service Learning (SL) and community service. The study posits that in the South African context of HEIs, the potential for fostering, specifically critical discourse and creative thinking exists in what are termed as traditional universities because of the nature of the varied disciplines offered at these institutions. On the other hand, UoTs focused predominantly on the technical study field and on training students for the market place. The emphasis on Work Integrated Learning (WIL) and industry placements narrowed the focus and excluded insights into South Africa's diversity and socioeconomic issues in the curriculum. The concept of social responsibility within a social justice paradigm is a foreign concept at UoTs in particular. To facilitate SL within a social justice paradigm and to address issues of injustice and inequality in SA at universities, the question that needs to be asked is: how should the preparation of students be shaped to adequately prepare them to become justice-orientated, socially and civically responsible students without compromising their work preparedness? This bigger question leads to the specific question of the study, which is: if the department of Food and Nutrition Consumer Sciences at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) is to develop justice orientated, socially and civically responsible students, what theoretical and philosophical considerations should guide the development of a SL capacity building programme? To achieve the purpose of the study the following objectives were identified: firstly, establish the effectiveness of the current preparation of Food and Nutrition students for SL to foster justice-orientated social and civic responsibility; secondly, determine the theoretical and philosophical considerations that should guide the development of students' justice-orientated social and civic responsibility through SL in the field of Food and Nutrition; thirdly, develop and implement a SL capacity building programme to foster social responsibility and critical active citizenship within a social justice paradigm; finally, develop a framework for a social justice-orientated SL capacity building programme post evaluation A sequential exploratory mixed methods research protocol was applied in this study. The research process consisted of three phases. Phase I entailed the exploration of the research question with qualitative data collection (focus groups) and analysis. This phase was followed by a developmental phase (Phase II) during which the qualitative results and the theoretical and philosophical considerations evident in the literature were used to develop a capacity building programme. The programme was implemented and the impact of the programme was evaluated in Phase III through the application of the Civic Attitudes and Skills Questionnaire (CASQ). Purposeful sampling was applied in Phases I (qualitative phase) and III (quantitative phase). During phase I five focus groups were conducted (n = 43). Phase III sample consisted of two groups namely, the experimental group (n = 19) and a control group (n = 24). Focus group interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim after which the data was coded followed by a thematic analysis. The data from the CASQ was captured on Microsoft Excel® and analysed according to CASQ scales using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 23 to determine mean and standard deviations. A paired sample 2-tailed t-test was used to determine statistical significant differences between the pre- and post-test. Results from phase I confirmed students' understanding of CE is mostly a charitable view with little emphasis on addressing social justice issues. The results showed that SL as currently planned and executed seems to perpetuate and reinforce existing social hierarchies and paternalism. The most common expectation of participating in CE from students was to apply skills and theoretical knowledge in a community setting. Students also commented that they expected to be developed personally and to learn about others. Additionally, it is evident from the results that students did not indicate any changes in their social justice awareness. The programme developed in phase II was within the framework of four dimensions including self-awareness, awareness of others, awareness of social issues and change agent as critical to preparing students for SL with the purpose of fostering social responsibility and active critical citizenship within a social justice paradigm and guided by the Ubuntu philosophy, Freire's critical pedagogy and Mezirow's transformative learning theory. The results of phase III showed that the experimental group who participated in the capacity building programme showed a significant increase in the social justice related subscales indicating their intentions of future civic action and change in social justice attitudes. The results in the control group demonstrated a decrease in the mean values in the post-test for the social justice subscales. The experimental group also showed an increase in the interpersonal and problem-solving skills, leadership skills, diversity attitudes and course value subscales but it was not significant. An opposite pattern was demonstrated in the control group with significant decreases in the interpersonal and problem-solving skills, leadership skills, diversity attitudes and course value. The results showed the significant impact of the capacity building programme on students' awareness and understanding of social justice issues. Overall, the findings of the various phases assisted in refinement of the framework for a social justice orientated SL capacity building programme. The developed framework consists of five key components: philosophy that guides social justice oriented service learning; theories that underpin service learning; a pedagogy that would effectively enhance a social justice oriented SL experience; and praxis that integrates theory and practice.