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TitleThe positionality of the euphenism of service learning at selected higher education institutions in South Africa
AuthorMatobako, Thabang Sello Patrick
SubjectCentral University of Technology, Free State - Dissertations
SubjectService learning - South Africa
SubjectCommunity development - South Africa
SubjectStudent service - South Africa
SubjectService learning - Education - South Africa
Format737 663 bytes
AbstractThesis (Ph. D.) - Central University of Technology, Free State, 2007
AbstractThis academic study was conducted as a critical scientific enquiry on the positionality of service learning at selected South African higher education institutions. The study critically and scientifically reflects on the positionality of the concept of service learning as practised at higher education institutions. It elucidates the different levels of conceptualisation and operationalisation of service learning by universities in relation to their catchment areas. In so doing, the study probes the positionality of power relations between higher education institutions and their catchment areas and/or local communities in the practice of service leaning. Given the traditional and historical domineering and ‘ivory tower’ positioning and conduct of higher education institutions in relation to their catchment areas, the study explores the fundamental nature and spirit of power relations in the operationalisation of service learning. It probes whether the relationship between service learning policy development and societal development initiatives is still shaped and influenced by historical legacies of the apartheid logic, such as academic domineering and institutional hegemony. The study also investigates whether these feature in the pursuit of service learning, curriculum development and transformative efforts as practised by selected universities. In order to draw parallels with studies of a similar nature, the study interrogates related literature. This enabled reflection on progressive conceptualisations of service learning, as opposed to retrogressive and/or technicist and, perhaps hegemonic and categorising concepts of service learning. In so doing, the study moves from the premise that, despite high levels of interest in civic matters within and among institutions of higher learning in South Africa, service learning as a vehicle for social transformation and progressive teaching and learning, seems to be largely neglected, under-theorised and, at times, disguised as a tool for the reproduction of inequalities. As a means of collecting data for the purpose of analysis and interpretation, the study uses a purely qualitative methodology. A Textually Oriented Discourse Analysis (TODA) was selected as a first choice and preferred methodology for the study of this nature because of its propensity to thematise issues of power relations. Furthermore, qualitative methodology is predisposed to recognising the subjectivity of the researcher in being intimately involved in the research process. This subjectivity, as encouraged by qualitative methodology, has guided everything in this research study, beginning with the choice of the topic, proceeding to developing objectives for the study, to the selection of the methodology itself and ultimately to the interpretation of data. Through this methodology, the researcher was encouraged to reflect on the values and objectives of the study and how these could be used to problematise issues of power relations. Although the study presents some quantitative data from other sources, there were a number of research problems that, for one reason or the other, did not lend themselves to a quantitative/ positivistic approach. Claims and pronouncements of quantitative researchers about the principles of objectivity, quantification and absolutism are not appropriate for thematising about issues of power relations, especially in instances of hegemony, domination, exclusivity, ideological inclination, discursion, justice and emancipatory praxis. To contextualise and narrow the focus area for research purposes, two South African higher education institutions (the universities of the Free State and of the Witwatersrand) were selected for the study. The choice of the two institutions was influenced by their history of involvement in service learning and curriculum repositioning processes. They have also been consistently portrayed by the South African academic world as strong campaigners in the operationalisation of first-rate service learning models, in the Free State and Gauteng provinces respectively (refer to chapter three for a detailed justification for such a choice). The findings of this study indicate that the selected universities have responded to calls to reposition themselves in the area of synchronising their academic offerings with the reconstruction and development imperatives of the country. The research established that the two institutions have produced strategic service learning policy documents as a means of responding more appropriately to the needs of communities. The implementation of such documents was intended to enable the two institutions to develop service learning policy positions, thus making an institutional commitment to operationalising service learning. The study has, however, determined that there are gaps and inconsistencies in terms of policy commitments and the operationalisation of service learning by the two institutions. In line with the themes developed in this study, it was established that the two institutions have limited the extent of their commitment to paper (policy documentation) and heartfelt pronouncements. The study furthermore reveals that despite the paper and heartfelt commitments of the two institutions on the concept of service learning, they are still restfully positioned as expert-oriented entities. By their nature and continuous domineering roles, they remain sites for the transmission of an effective dominant and domineering culture which limits the possibilities of their unleashing an emancipatory praxis that is so critical in the context of a transforming South Africa.
Publisher[Bloemfontein?] : Central University of Technology, Free State