Cornerstone Institute in partnership with Community Chest in 2019 introduced a programme unique to the sector and in South African higher education to capacitate community development workers as recognised scholars and practitioners in the field.

As a selective programme, this two-year higher certificate only has 30 places available with each student receiving a full scholarship to complete the programme. Applicants undergo a rigorous selection process, which focuses on deserving community development workers who do not hold accredited qualifications, but have a significant number of years of experience in serving communities.

“When the students complete this course they will be able to establish community resource projects and facilitate learning programmes that will lead to community upliftment and increase the capacity in their respective organisations” explained Joan Daries, Community Chest programme manager.

“What sets this programme apart is that it will strengthen students as reflective practitioners – change agents that use the scholarship of community development to embolden the daily practice of local community transformation”, said Dr Rudi Buys, Dean of Humanities at Cornerstone.

The first cohort of students commenced with classes on 18 February and represents a diverse group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from across the Western Cape. These include NGOs engaged in youth development, auxiliary social work, home based care, violence prevention, conservation, and social justice programmes. 

Commenting on the cohort of students selected for the programme, Noel Daniels, CEO of Cornerstone Institute, said, “I am happy with the diverse class we have and that these students and respected colleagues in the field will be qualified Community Development Practitioners when they finish this programme. It is our purpose as higher education institution to serve as a platform for education and for our youth to deepen their resilience and unleash their full potential. We aim to enable a next generation to be role models and agents of positive change. This group will serve that purpose admirably.”

Urging the students not to drop out of the 2-year programme, Susan Thevar, CFO of the Community Chest, said, “Your commitment will reflect your accountability to the community. The training programme is structured well. No-one of you must drop out of this intensive Programme. We pride ourselves in this partnership with Cornerstone Institute, and with you, as it will benefit the communities we serve. All the knowledge and skills you will learn will be ploughed back into your organisation and the community.”

Lorna Nobula, 26, one of the selected students and part of the NGO, YMCA Cape Town, said, ”We need to stand up as active citizens and not subject to what we see in this country. To be selected is great hope and opportunity to raise up as a future leader. I want to bring hope, change, unity, cooperation and I believe together we can do better.”

Themba Sizani, 34, one of the selected students and part of the NGO, I AM PASSION, said, “I am just glad to be at Cornerstone and knowing what I’m expected to do. The knowledge that I will gain will improve my work and the service we offer to the community.  I am so happy that I would be attending more effectively to the needs of the community. I really expect to learn a lot about community development and ethics”.

Accredited at the NQF 5 level, the two-year Higher Certificate forms part of the suit of programmes ranging from certificate to honors degree levels offered by Cornerstone Institute’s Department of Sociology and Community Development.

The programme consists of 120 credits and spread over the key learning areas of Sociology, Development Studies, Leadership Studies, Information Skills and Project Management.