n South African Journal of Higher Education - Managing tensions in a service-learning programme : some reflections

Volume 24, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



Service learning as a strategy for raising awareness amongst university students of their responsibilities to the community is rapidly gaining currency in higher education institutions in South Africa. High levels of unemployment and striking economic inequality have been an unfortunate feature of South African society for several decades. Since the dawn of democracy this scenario has not changed to any extent. The introduction of new education curriculum policy has made the teaching of entrepreneurship education mandatory in all South African schools in an attempt to engender an entrepreneurial ethos amongst South Africans from a young age. To advance this agenda, the country requires teachers who have the competence to deliver on this policy imperative. This article reports on a qualitative research study that examined the experiences of pre-service teachers as they engaged in an entrepreneurship education programme that was specially enhanced to create an awareness of social responsibility through service-learning. It entailed close collaboration with a community-based organization working with disadvantaged children at an orphanage in South Africa. It examines the complexities that are likely to emerge in a service-learning programme. The article argues that while service learning has potential for sensitizing students to the issue of social responsibility, it is important for programme developers to be aware of the tensions that may emerge in a service learning programme, namely, the tension between service and learning, between service learning as charity and service learning as a means for empowerment and, between student autonomy and the extent of faculty supervision. Drawing on the work of Le Grange (2007), this article explores the notion of rhizomatic theorizing in service-learning.

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