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Tuesday, 01 December 2020

Department of Biotechnology and Consumer Science enriches the community

SPIRIT OF UBUNTU: The Department of Biotechnology and Consumer Science has created study posters, topics knife skills, personal hygiene in the food industry and table setting for the Cape Town-based NPO, Vheneka. SPIRIT OF UBUNTU: The Department of Biotechnology and Consumer Science has created study posters, topics knife skills, personal hygiene in the food industry and table setting for the Cape Town-based NPO, Vheneka.

The Department of Biotechnology and Consumer Science has developed teaching resources that will be used by women empowerment organisation, Vheneka as well as at CPUT in practical studies.

The department created classroom posters, topics knife skills, personal hygiene in the food industry and table setting for the Cape Town-based NPO Vheneka which focuses on “survivors of prostitution and trafficking”. The organisation’s founder and executive director, Marilyn Murugweni says they use a two-pronged intervention method which entails “psychosocial” – a transitional shelter and a fulltime social worker and, skills training in the form of a five months’ beginners culinary course which covers the basic culinary skills. The course has an intake of small groups where 12 students are enrolled per course. The intake has been smaller due to challenges related to the COVID-19 epidemic.

“The partnership with CPUT Department of Biotechnology and Consumer Science has enriched our programme immensely as we have received learning material in the form of posters and some ingredients. Over and above that, the interaction with the University’s staff has boosted our students’ confidence and self-esteem,” Murugweni remarks.

Consumer Science lecturer, Raché Hanekom expressed her delight with working with Vheneka. Hanekom says: “I am excited to work with the NPO; it will give our students the opportunity for peer teaching and some experience in training, an aspect they may be required to do in the industry.”

She says these organisations rely heavily on assistance from external stakeholders for input. “In this case, we have the opportunity to add value to the educational experience of the students at Vheneka, who may otherwise not have the opportunity to experience ‘real-life’ production environments whilst in training.”

Hanekom adds: “If you feel you can make a difference, do so, big or small. Any contribution, assistance, support is valuable to NPOs.” She explained that one of their part-time lecturers became involved with Vheneka and that the idea developed from an informal conversation where the department realised the programme each have to offer which is the training in a large-scale environment. This allows our students to mimic training in the industry. We then designed a plan of action where both parties would benefit”.

She adds that in 2021, the Vheneka students may have the opportunity to join a large-scale food production day to experience life in the industry. The department will also aim to share Quality Control skills from a business and entrepreneurship view.

“As a department, we are grateful for the opportunity to engage with community partners and to contribute through student interaction and peer teaching… The meaning for CPUT is short and simple, make a difference, however small, to someone it may be a big difference,” Hanekom remarks.  

However, it has not been a roller coaster ride for both partners as the COVID 19 Pandemic disrupted their planned programme for 2020. “We adjusted the project (downscaled), it became more theoretical than the envisaged practical lessons: Even when the unexpected happens, find a way to make something happen, even if it’s not the original Plan A.”

Albeit the challenges they faced to fulfil their plans, Hanekom says: “I am happy that despite us not being able to complete the original project; we have developed teaching resources that will be used at both institutions in the practical laboratories.”

Murugweni adds: “We feel very honoured and privileged that the Department of Consumer Science at CPUT, deemed us a worthy partner for this very strategic and enriching partnership.”

Written by Aphiwe Boyce