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University of the Western Cape enters into partnership for youth upliftment

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The recent bout of thunder and lightning has drawn the summer skies grey in Cape Town, but the inclement weather did not hamper the performance of the Cape Whalers Field Band – supported by investment holding company Remgro Limited – at the entrance to the Jakes Gerwel Hall ahead of the DVC: Academic’s Annual Christmas Concert.

Unbeknown to the young band members, Professor Vivienne Lawack was signing an agreement with the CEO of The Field Band Foundation. Soon children from this band and others from around the country will visit the University of the Western Cape (UWC) to train with volunteers from the Centre of Performing Arts.

The foundation was started in 1997 to address various economic and social issues in the country by utilising arts in the form of marching bands “as a catalyst to stimulate an empowered, self-confident and healthy community”.

Community engagement plays a central role at the university, but, said Prof Lawack, it is critical to roll up one’s sleeves to effect real change.

“I always say we cannot helicopter into communities and think we can solve their problems. The UWC Framework for Scholarship of Engagement for Society Impact under my portfolio has recently been approved by the university’s senate. So, our principles speak to reciprocity – we are co-creators. I am looking forward to the learning journey,” Prof Lawack told foundation CEO Nicolette du Plessis and National Operations Manager Ushama Jerrier.

“You are talking our language when you speak about reciprocity; when you talk about learning, and particularly when you talk about impact,” Ms Du Plessis replied.
Henriette Weber, Nicolette du Plessis, Prof Vivienne
Lawack and Ushama Jerrier

“We know for sure that meaningful impact doesn’t happen overnight. It happens long-term. To have a partner who understands that and who is willing to walk the journey with us is where we want to be. For us, it is incredibly exciting to be on campus where there will be all sorts of bridges which will be opened up for our people.”

“Our people” are the hundreds of young people in South Africa whom the foundation serves, explained Ms Jerrier. Many will set foot on a university campus for the first time and see that tertiary education is attainable.

“This is the start of a life-building journey,” said Ms Jerrier.

Director for the Centre of Performing Arts, Henriette Weber, explained that university students and staff would work with foundation members as well as members of the community to train various bands in areas such as Gugulethu and Bellville South. They will focus on children in Grades 5, 6 and 7, and then high school pupils in Grade 10.

“This is about the fun and enjoyment of making music. We want them to focus on the arts, and ultimately see them transition into students at this university.”