South Africa is finally catching up to the rest of the world, when it comes to offering a professional certification for people who look after the most vulnerable members of our society. A unique formal higher certificate program in community development was unveiled in Cape Town this week.
The idea was the brain-child of the Community Chest, who identified the need for such a programme and approached Cornerstone Institute for the academic service.
“We host regular capacity building programmes and it was during these programmes that we realised that there is no formal training or certification for people who want to look after the poor, the destitute and the disenfranchised in our society. They have the best intentions in the world, but without formal training their efforts simply cannot be sustainable,” explains Joan Daries, programme manager at Community Chest.
Daries and her team joined forces with the Cornerstone Institute, a not for profit higher education institution, to plan the most effective approach to this problem. The two organisations developed the Higher Certificate in Community Development.
“This is a two-year part-time programme for those who are currently employed in the sector to enhance their knowledge, skills and competence in order to demonstrate professional practice and implement effective strategies in the communities whom they serve,” says René Ngwenya, Cornerstone’s programme coordinator for the Higher Certificate in Community Development.
“What we ultimately hope to achieve, is the professionalization of the NGO sector,” says Daries. “By offering professional training and certification, we hope to take this sector to new heights. There is no shortage of people who want to address the many issues facing society, but with education, development and training we hope our graduates will also be able to help put measures in place to prevent the very symptoms they are addressing each day. It’s about empowering them to help prevent the problem, and not just simply trying to cure it.”
Many other countries have already professionalised their community development worker sectors, says Ngwenya, and South Africa is now following that example. Countries like Canada, Australia, and the UK have all made great strides in this direction. “My vision for the future is that in ten years from now, community work will be a recognised educational profession, where people are compensated properly in terms of the time and the effort and the energy they spend in the field, with proper policies in place to formalise this sector.”
The Higher Certificate in Community Development is registered with the Department of Higher Education and is CHE accredited. Cornerstone facilitates the 2 year academic programme, with course material and subject matter supplied. Bursary funding was made available by the National Lotteries Commission.
A group of 30 students were enrolled in the first intake in January 2019, representing various NGO and civil society organisations. This group was introduced to the public at an event held in Cape Town this week.
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