“The 100 hours of community service recognised on my transcript could tell my future employers about my character and my love for community service. The 100 hours will be part of me for the rest of my life and therefore have a significant meaning to me.”
Ricardo Smart, who has just completed his masters in microbiology, is a telling example of a student whose academic education is only one part of the complete experience of being a student at Stellenbosch University. To educate “engaged citizens and responsible leaders, who are willing to use their skills and expertise to serve society” (according the SU website), service learning and community interaction is important for a student’s years on campus.
The 100 hour challenge that Matie Community Service (MCS) puts to students, ask students to complete 100 hours community service at one of the projects facilitated by MCS. According to Michelle Pietersen, Senior Programme Manager at MCS, leaders of residences and societies already hand in their plans for possible projects by August and September. Michelle says the community context is very important. “Over the years we’ve seen that students must first identify the needs in the community in order for the contribution to really have a social impact. Otherwise it is of little value and it doesn’t really help in building relationships.” The MCS will then match the projects to what the students think they can contribute.
Michelle describes MCS as a hub for volunteers. “We do not only manage the student volunteer programmes, but we also facilitate, give training and help to bring the correct people together.” She says a project, as well as the students’’ involvement, must be to the benefit of all involved. In turn, this helps to build respect between people.
Ntsiki Langa, with a degree in molecular biology and biotechnology as well as a post-graduate degree in marketing, has recently been appointed as recruitment and marketing officer for the Faculty of Science. She explains how her 100 hours helped to make a difference at the Phakama Secondary School in Philippi and the surrounding environment. “I started that I had a mentality of ‘I am going to teach these people in communities what I know’, but that quickly changed as I learnt more from the interactions than I had to teach. And this is something I will always take with me: in every space there is an opportunity to learn from the next person if you allow yourself to.”
Students can decide how many hours community service they can manage over a year (1 September – 31 August). Those who complete 50 of 75 hours get a certificate. But when a student completes 100 hours it is indicated on their official transcripts. “As far as I know we are the only university in SA who does this,” Michelle says. It took five years to get it formally recognized through the correct channels.
“This is the University’s way to recognize a student’s contribution outside of class. It forms part of growing well-rounded citizens.”
Source Stellenbosch University