Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 18 Issue 3 (May/June 2008), Pages 153-267

“Communities isn't just about trees and shops”: students from two South African universities engage in dialogue about ‘community’ and ‘community work’ (pages 253-267)


The question of what constitutes ‘a community’ or even ‘the community’ takes on an extra salience in a divided society such as South Africa where the entire environment remains imprinted with the legacy of enforced segregation along racial lines. Higher education institutions need to prepare emerging health and social service students for the world of practice in a context of diversity, continuing segregation and marked inequality. As one step to helping students deal with working in a divided society, academic departments from two different South African universities have been involved in a collaborative teaching and research project. Fourth year psychology and social work students from the two universities took part in a collaborative, practical course which formed part of their curricula. In this course, students were given the opportunity to engage with the notion of ‘community’ and ‘community work’ with each other. The students came from diverse racial, class and political backgrounds, and by engaging with one another as they did, had the opportunity to ‘visit’ worlds they have rarely had access to. While this course was able to achieve a broadening awareness among students from different backgrounds about the notion of community, it will take both more engagement with courses of this kind, and a continuing history of change in South Africa, for students to feel more comfortable in transcending both physical and psychological boundaries. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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