Center for Community Outreach and Partnership (CCOP)There are four main units;
1. Information, Education and Communication unit
2. Institutional Frameworks and Policy development unit
3. Inter-sector linkages and Collaborations unit
4. Citizenship and Civic participation unit
Background: Transforming the ivory tower complexNdejje University (NDU) aims at bridging the traditional disengagement between universities, communities and community agencies. The outreach programs consolidate organic linkages between NDU and society in such a way that needs of society form the core of the NDU teaching, research and innovations agenda. These initiatives presumably reverse the deficit model of university-community interactions where the community is conceived as a laboratory for researchers to ‘generate new knowledge for purposes of staff promotion or for higher degrees for students (Perry & Menendez 2011). The new approach represents a drift from the unidirectional engagement where communities are considered as “pockets of need and laboratories for experimentation; towards bi-directional engagement (Tagoe 2012). In the eyes of NDU, communities are not ‘passive recipients’ of university expertise; they also offer valuable knowledge reserves (Traditional Knowledge or Local Knowledge).
Information, Education and Communication (IEC) unit1. Create awareness among communities: The first step in IEC is to avail information and create awareness about critical issues and challenges within their midst; this is followed by developing skills and expertise in finding creative remedies to address the issues and challenges. In all these endeavors, it would be imperative to demonstrate social and economic incentives that will motivate individuals and groups to engage in innovations. Developing and demonstrating business/entrepreneurial models is not only a socio-economic incentive, but it is also a tool for sustainability of innovations. Although technologies exist for various forms of innovations, operations have in many of the sectors are still at a subsistence level. This is partly explained by the syndrome of heavy dependency of projects on government or donor subsidies. The projects remain small and fail to survive beyond pilot phase.
2. Development of user-friendly IEC formats; At NDU. Innovations to communities are communicated and publicized through multimedia channels that are user-friendly and affordable to grassroots communities. The communication is done through newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, community videos, call-in radio and television programming, social network sites and live drama,. Educational entertainment (edutainment) is one of the approaches used. It captures attention of people who are unlikely to pay attention to conventional social messages. Poetry, comedy, Music Dance and Drama (MDD), comic Art (cartoons) are some of the edutainment forms used. Demonstration units, Resource centers and pilot projects: are also used to engage communities in practical aspects of innovations.
Institutional Frameworks and Policy development unitNDU ventures in proposing Institutional frameworks and regulatory instruments needed to ensure that there is compliance with environmentally sustainable activities and practices. Urban authorities and central government agencies are called upon to give requisite support to encourage communities and private sector agencies to engage meaningfully in environmentally sustainable activities. NDU engages in advocacy for Tax holidays and other socio-economic incentives to be extended to communities and local entrepreneurs who invest or engage in environmentally sound practices.
For instance, economic instruments (Tariffs, tax incentives) are designed to regulate charcoal and firewood trade. NDU is looking for partnerships with relevant local, regional and international agencies to develop a comprehensive framework for valuing environmental resources in Uganda; particularly trees and other forest resources. This framework will provide a guide to establish realistic basis for tariffs on charcoal and firewood trade. When the price of firewood and charcoal reflects the real value of trees, the briquettes and biogas industry and trade will flourish.
Inter-sector linkages and Collaborations unitAs pointed out by Sutz (2005), small-scale collaborations between researchers, government, industry and other actors in many developing countries had failed to grow into national trends. However, NDU has initiated platforms to promote stakeholder interactions between the key players in on a wide range of ventures. Among other activities, NDU convened the first International Scientific conference on bio-waste recycling in September 2016 in Kampala. It attracted 70 poster and oral presentations; and exhibitions. In August 2017, NDU organized a Mission Green Youth Expo at St Kizito High School Namugongo. The aim of these events was to create public awareness of prospects of bio-waste recycling; and to share insights on opportunities and challenges with key stakeholders.
NDU has participated in numerous events organized by public and private sector organizations related to energy, water, environment, and others. Joint projects and collaborative ventures include those between NDU and Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA). The projects and activities focused on waste collection and planting of trees in the five divisions of Kampala City (Rubaga, Makindye, Kawempe, Nakawa and Central Division). Besides, NDU has conducted several awareness and consultative workshops with municipalities of Masaka, Mbarara, Kira and Jinja. In 2016, NDU worked with NEMA in conducting an international environment day in Mbarara.
Citizenship and Civic Participation unitCherishing Identity and Nurturing Values: In the bid to promote citizenship and civic participation, NDU puts focus on enabling younger generations to hold on to their roots, cherish their identity and values in a globalized world where cultures collide.
1. Addressing challenges of Globalized cultures and valuesIn the wave of rapid urbanization, globalization and mobility, African socio-cultural institutions continue to be eroded and the young generations need alternative frameworks of support to orient them into 21st century. Whereas globalization, migrations and mobility present opportunities for sustainable and inclusive development, the consequent challenges are steep and complex. The rich African cultural heritage is being substituted by market-driven media storylines. As storylines become more global, media become the cultural modifier and unifier for an otherwise heterogeneous population.
Mainstreaming is the process by which globalized influences erode local socio-cultural values (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, Signorielli & Shanahan 2002). The mainstreamed cultures lack complexity, richness and diversity because the content is uniform. The local cultural heritage and local identities are rarely reflected because the content is developed from symbolic resources and materials imported from globalized cultures (Strelitz 2004; Strelitz and Boshoff 2008). The new constructed values influence youths’ choices, fashion, hairstyle, artistic tastes and social interaction.
Consumerism and commercial orientations: within the context of globalized structures, profitability takes precedent over creativity and cultural values. Media which are crafted along consumerism and market orientation create distorted representation of reality among young generations.
The consumer is perceived as an autonomous individual but not as a member of an entity. The market-driven narratives use attractive role models and exciting presentations to hook individuals. The producers seem to have perfected the art of presenting attractive content for young people across the globe. The cash stricken state media in Africa depend on cheap imports that save them from the costs of producing local programs (Enyonam et al 2008). They have to rely on cheap materials developed from abroad.
To aggravate matters, high proportions of urban youths spend less time with their parents (Population Council 2005) and thus depend on media for socialization. Thus, the ‘pedagogy’ of media prevails over the influence that families and educational systems have over younger generations (Kellner 2001). Young people within elite families increasingly influence household decision making (Hagen, 2010). They determine the spending habits of parents, and pressurize them on what to buy. This pressure is termed as “pester power” or the ‘nag factor’ by Strasburger, Wilson and Jordan (2009). Children easily identify the product they saw on television and they pester the parent to buy it from the supermarket.
The children social worlds are increasingly being constructed around consumption, materialism and what is ‘cool’. The global corporate entities are increasingly intensifying their penetration into the new niche market of children (future clients). In this respect, young people represent long lasting brand loyalty (Nakken 2007; Harris 1999). Manufacturers can no longer afford to under-look young people as passive citizens as it used to be in the past. The children social worlds are increasingly being constructed around consumption, materialism and what is ‘cool’. Daily exposure enables children to develop brand recognition and taste for some of the products.
Globalized educational systems: Foreign education systems tend to occupy the space of local minds. This kills or hampers opportunities for creation of new perspectives and local innovations. The situation is aggravated by contemporary individualism which prevent people from seeing themselves as part of their communities. Life-skills orientation should not be delegated to the spontaneous influences of globalized institutions. There should be deliberate initiatives by responsible agencies (schools, Universities, homes, religious institutions and local governments) to develop localized and customized structures for lifelong learning.
In light of the above, Ndejje University undertakes life-skills and life-long learning programs to help younger generations to: cherish their cultural values and to optimize local products and local resources for development. Special reference is made to the Block-Placement initiatives. Once a year, multi-disciplinary teams of students are placed in communities for two months; supervised by faculty members. As they learn from communities, they diffuse knowledge, skills and innovations (bio-waste recycling, sanitation smart Agriculture). In the process, they identify peculiar social and economic issues and opportunities to address.
2. Life-skills and lifelong learningLifelong learning initiatives are being developed to promote willingness, desire and ability for individuals/communities to; a) Learn to be themselves; b) Develop skills of tapping the treasures within them.
There are myths and assumptions that specific groups/societies/nations have deficits in knowledge, skills and values and that it is the duty of outsiders to bridge the gaps. As Bruner (1990) points out, an endangered society is the one where alternative narratives cannot be scripted, and whose members can no longer change the stories they tell themselves. In such cases, communities are held hostage by a sense of fatalism.
Innovative approaches are needed to demystify incapacitating beliefs and to change behavior patterns that are often considered unalterable. The initiatives ought to offer practical alternatives and to illustrate practical options. For instance, educational edutainment and role modeling could be used to reinforce desirable attitudes, knowledge and practices. Life-skills and lifelong learning initiatives at Ndejje University are based on the following premises
I. Cultural diversity is one of humanity’s greatest source of creativity and wealth. It entails diverse ways of viewing the world. Societies everywhere can learn a great deal from each other by being more open to the discovery and understanding of other worldviews. Ndejje university attempts to develop frameworks for fostering dialogue among different worldviews and to integrate knowledge systems from diverse realities
II. No individual (or group of people) is doomed from birth. A treasure lies within each individual (and/or within a society) and tapping it calls for participatory interventions.
III. Lifelong learning promotes the fundamental aspects of common humanity that include Social justice, respect for cultural diversity, international solidarity and shared responsibility
Learning to be could be manifested in the following forms;
a) Valuing and upholding local/indigenous knowledge systems;
b) Strengthening elements in one’s own culture; not resisting other cultures; c)
3. Engaging younger generationsIn conventional African settings, there are fundamental philosophical debates rotating around the question of what is right; and who determines what is right. Traditionally, knowledge and wisdom was conveyed from adults to the young through fire-place riddles, legends, myths, proverbs and fairy stories.
Learning was arranged on the assumption that elders are the primary source of knowledge on all issues and that knowledge was presumed to have enduring validity. However, at Ndejje university acknowledges that the youths could have independent and superior information sources on specific aspects of their day-to-day living. This is evident in their mobility and manifested by their relatively advanced masterly of ICT. Interactions with young generations planned to be in formats appropriate to their sub-cultures.
The quasi-modern youths’ subculture has unique symbols, choices, fashion, styles, interests, slang; music and film genres (UNESCO HIV 2002; Hebdige 1979). It also has distinctive forms of recreation, socializing, coping and unique role-models and expressions. Educators could simply play the role of facilitators; but not the custodian of wisdom and knowledge on all aspects of life.
Aim and objectives of Life-skills and lifelong learning In light of the above discussions, initiatives to promote citizenship and Civic participation aims at weaving together the social, economic and environmental dimensions for sustainable development. Specifically, the initiatives focus on the following core objectives;
a. Promoting self-esteem, self-confidence and the ability of individuals (and communities) to have control over their destiny. This is done via;
i) Establishing (or restoring) conﬁdence, self-respect and social esteem;
ii) Enabling individuals to understand themselves better, to avoid despair or delusion;
iii) Encourage individual to identify constructive role models;
iv) promoting among individuals a desire and ability to search for their roots, establish their identity and cherish their values;
v) Developing capacity among individuals and groups to act with autonomy, judgement and personal responsibility.
b. Develop the creative potential of individuals (communities) in all its richness and complexity; this is being done via:
i) Promoting reasoning, aesthetic sense, physical capacities and communication skills;
ii) enabling individuals thrive in context of unequal opportunities
c. Instill among individuals willingness and ability to recognize the diversity of lived realities and to affirm universal core values. This is being done via;
i) Promote respect, equity, equality and dignity for humanity;
ii) enhancing cultural literacy