Through practice and research, the SII explores ways through which to encourage community engagement that go beyond the school and classroom. Our focus is therefore on the school as the core institution of community engagement and democratic development. To this end we develop programmes based on the needs of the schools – always attempting to position the schools as our primary partners.

The SII is committed to continuously problematizing normative notions of expertise, power and knowledge production. Locating expertise within a single domain such as the university reinforces the perception that universities are the seat of power. This reproduces traditional hierarchies of knowledge, and assumes that knowledge generated within the university is valued above local forms of knowledge. Such knowledge is typcially regarded as something that can be externally applied to address particular problems within the broader society.

Extending our understanding of knowledge as complex and multifaceted, and acknowledging that knowledge exists beyond the borders of the university requires an awareness of patterns of exclusions and marginalisation which have historically been part of the colonial project. The SII acknowledges that through its partnerships with schools and communities- teachers, principals, parents and learners are also co-constructors of knowledge, and should therefore be integrally involved in processes of knowledge generation.

 With the spotlight on Khayelitsha, it is important therefore that we draw into the partnership a broad range of stakeholders at the community level. This includes parents; community-based organisations as well as education officials from Metropole East Education District and Provincial Health.

Principles that underpin a university-school-community partnership model

  • A focus on the school as the core institution of community engagement, social responsivenss and democratic development
  • An “open doors” approach that implies more extensive use of school facilities – both before and after school, over weekends and during holidays
  • A “beyond the school curriculum” agenda that serves the broader educational, social, health and recreational needs of the community
  • A recognition that schools serve as key sites for academically-based community service, professional practice, social responsiveness and engaged scholarship
  • An encouragement for the development of strong and responsive school-community-university partnerships
  • A close partnership with local educational authorities to improve and enhance the quality of educational provision