COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PRACTIONERS GRADUATE

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By Sello Tang

  • The Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, celebrated with HWSETA executives, marking the achievements of 28 Western Cape graduates who earned the Community Development Practitioners NQF Level 5 RPL certificate.
  • The ceremony at the Protea Hotel in Worcester signifies the completion of the nationwide Community Development RPL skills training project initiated in 2018, with 581 practitioners from seven provinces having completed the certificate.
  • Ms Zulu highlighted the imminent establishment of the Professional Board for Community Development Practice, emphasising its role in professionalising the sector and addressing societal challenges, echoing Tata Madiba’s sentiment: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

The Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, along with executives from the Health and Welfare Sector Training Authority (HWSETA), marked a significant occasion yesterday, 21 February 2024. They celebrated the achievements of 28 graduates from the Western Cape Province who have successfully earned the Community Development Practitioners National Qualification Framework (NQF) Level 5 Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) certificate.

The ceremony took place at the Protea Hotel in Worcester, Western Cape, signifying the completion of the Community Development RPL skills development training project initiated nationwide in 2018. As of now, a total of 581 community development practitioners from seven provinces, including Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape, and Western Cape, have completed the Community Development RPL certificate.

Representing the cohort of Western Cape graduates, Ms Allison Hartzenberg-Smith conveyed a powerful message, stating, “It can never be too late to go back to school to learn because life does not stop teaching.” She expressed gratitude to the department and HWSETA for the learning opportunity provided. The implementation of the NQF5 RPL project nears completion as the department progresses towards establishing the Professional Board for Community Development Practice (PBCDP) to professionalise the sector.

The imminent establishment of the board is informed by the provisions of section 14A (1) of the Social Service Professions Act, 110 of 1978, as amended. Ms Mpontsheng Kumeke, the Community Development Policy Manager, under the Integrated Community Development Branch, said they have submitted the draft Regulations of the Board to Minister Zulu for approval, after which the minister will handover to the South African Council of Social Services Professions (SACSSP) for implementation and professionalisation of the sector. Ms Kumeke is positive that the board approval process will be finalised in the new financial year, 2014-2015.

She added that the 581 Assistant Community Development Practitioners (ACDPs) and the seniors, who have successfully gone through the RPL project and completed their qualifications, will automatically be eligible to register with SACSSP when the imminent Professional Board for Community Development Practice (PBCDP) is established. Currently, the ACPDs and some of the CDPs are not eligible to register with the SACSSP and therefore not recognised as opposed to their social worker’s counterparts.

It is expected that once the board is formally established a Bachelor of Community Development Degree and the Postgraduate Diploma NGF Level 8 will be introduced at higher education level in partnership with the University of Free State and the University of Western Cape, to mention a few. The main purpose of the RPL project was to contribute towards skills development for the ACDPs and CDPs within DSD by enabling the practitioners without formal qualifications, but with experience to make use of the knowledge and experience gained during the practice to acquire formal qualifications in Community Development. The project also highlighted the importance of collaboration between the Sector Education and Training Authorities and the government departments in skills development.

This further training and skill learning of community development practitioners will bore a qualified and knowledgeable cadre that will give impetus to the amplification of the interventions in and the provision of comprehensive, integrated, sustainable, and quality social development services. Addressing the graduation ceremony, Minister Zulu acknowledged that the achievement of the RPL project was “a small step in numbers, but a great leap forward”.

“It highlights the extent to which through the Recognition of Prior Learning, we can bring change to communities by empowering community development practitioners who work with communities but with no requisite skills,” said Minister Zulu.

Minister emphasised that the Recognition of Prior Learning complements the DSD strategy on the employment of social service professionals and fits into the broader vision of the National Development Plan. She indicated that her department has on 20 February 2024 presented a Cabinet Memorandum on the strategy for the employment of social service professionals, including Community Development Practitioners. “We will soon take the Community Development Policy to Cabinet to ensure that we standardise qualifications and practice. As the Minister, I will continue to make every possible effort to ensure that we address the issue of employment opportunities in the sector,” said the Minister.

She concluded by reminding the graduates about the words of former President, Tata Madiba when he indicated: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Minister stressed that education was at the major centre of developmental aspirations and the achievement of Vision 2030 as outlined in the National Development Plan, outlining challenges as poverty, unemployment, inequality, gender-based violence, homelessness, and substance use disorders as the social ills that needed to be addressed “as a matter of urgency”.

“So, as community development practitioners I hope that you are ready to diligently serve your communities and our country and shoulder the responsibility to take on these challenging but noble duties,” she said.

Minister Zulu further passed her sincere condolences to the two graduates who passed and could not join the celebrations. The Western Cape RPL Graduation ceremony was graced by the presence of HWSETA Board Chairperson: Dr Nomsa Mnisi, HWSETA Chief Executive: Ms Elaine Brass & Executive Manager: Ms Baakedi Motubatse, Mayor of Breede Valley Municipality: Cllr Palesa Ramokhabi, Deputy Director-General: Integrated Community Development Mr Peter Netshipale and the Inputs: Western Cape Social Development Chief Director: Community and Partnership Development Mr Mzwandile Hewu.

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