In a momentous virtual gathering, the Rhodes University community witnessed the launch of the first online open issue of the African Journal of Higher Education Community Engagement (AJHECE). The event, spearheaded by Ms Di Hornby, Director of Rhodes University Community Engagement, showcased a collaborative effort to bring forth a publication dedicated to advancing community-driven education.
Hornby stated, “It’s really an exciting day for us in the community engagement sector as we birth a baby that has taken a lot to grow.”
Key figures within the academic community, including the Chairman and Members of the South African Higher Education Community Engagement Forum (SAHECEF), were acknowledged for their instrumental roles in positioning community engagement as a core function of higher education institutions. The diverse and global nature of the Editorial Advisory Board was highlighted, showcasing a collaborative effort that spans across India, Uganda, Argentina, Canada, the United States, Zambia, and South Africa. Special appreciation was directed to Emeritus Professor Peter Clayton, former Rhodes University Deputy Vice Chancellor, for his unwavering support, without whom the journal might not have come to fruition.
University leadership, including Vice-Chancellor Professor Sizwe Mabizela and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor ‘Mabokang Monnapula-Mapesela, shared profound insights into the transformative potential of the AJHECE. Professor Mabizela emphasised the paramount role of the journal in fostering a social purpose within universities. He stressed the importance of drawing lessons from successful and unsuccessful initiatives, signalling a commitment to learning and adaptability.
Highlighting Rhodes University’s dedication, Professor Mabizela articulated, “This will contribute an important voice and perspective, informed by our local context and shaped by how it fits into the global scholarship and debate on community engagement.” His words underscored the University’s commitment to locally responsive, highly engaged knowledge, aiming to create a just and sustainable society.
Professor Monnapula-Mapesela echoed these sentiments, stating, “Today we are making history for Rhodes University. For South Africa, and Africa. We are building a community of engaged scholars in knowledge sharing, amplifying their voices, and initiating scholarly work.”
She highlighted the significance of launching the first African Journal of Higher Education, dedicated to the corpus of knowledge on community engagement. Reflecting on the historical context, Professor Monnapula-Mapesela noted the long journey to officially recognise community engagement as one of the three important pillars of education in South Africa.
She emphasised the milestone reached by Rhodes University in breaking the record as the first institution to launch a journal dedicated to community engagement in Africa. Professor Monnapula-Mapesela underscored the transformative role of the journal in deconstructing the ivory tower ideology that has distanced universities from their localities. She highlighted that the journal would elevate and give prominence to community engagement and scholarship, emphasising its importance in teaching, learning, and research within local contexts.
Dr Margie Maistry, the Editor-in-Chief of the AJHECE, outlined the journal’s key objectives. The primary aim is to contribute to building a body of knowledge for community engagement in Africa. The journal seeks to publish diverse aspects of community engagement, emphasising research and practice, impacting teaching and learning. The objectives include fostering international dialogue, amplifying African voices, and combating side-lining alternative knowledge paradigms. AJHECE aims to grow community engagement as a discipline, contributing to community development’s social, cultural, psychological, spiritual, and political dimensions.
Furthermore, the journal intends to embed community engagement in all university activities, promoting collaborative research methodologies. It aims to provide a platform for discourse on community engagement and the scholarship of engagement, fostering connections between the Global South and North. Additionally, AJHECE adopts a developmental approach, supporting young authors and editorial board members. Dr Maistry highlighted the tagline “educating for life and a living,” emphasising the role of community engagement in preparing students for life’s challenges in a fast changing, uncertain and complexed world.
The event’s culmination was the official unveiling of AJHECE by Mr Van der Walt, Head of Technical Services at Rhodes Library. Participants were encouraged to explore the journal’s website, submit manuscripts, and engage actively with its rich content.
Rhodes University’s launch of the first online open issue of AJHECE heralds a new era in academic discourse, emphasising the pivotal role of community engagement in higher education. As the digital pages of the journal come to life, they symbolise a commitment to collaborative scholarship that transcends geographical boundaries, providing a platform for diverse voices to contribute to the discourse on higher education’s role in community engagement.