What we do

The Centre for the Community School (CCS), established in 2011 as an engagement entity in the Faculty of Education at Nelson Mandela University, in South Africa has been tasked with developing alternative approaches to school improvement that are relevant and responsive to the contextual realities of under-served schools and communities in the country. Taking into consideration the numerous contextual barriers to effective schooling in South Africa, the CCS promotes engagement where school communities are encouraged to re-imagine new ways of dealing with current and future challenges, as well as redefining school success and functionality. It strives to do this through:

      i. Teaching and learning which is, organic, co-constructed, and multifaceted which values the diversity of knowledge across various contexts. The products of these engagements must be shared and interrogated for it to be mutually beneficial for all engaged in the process.

    ii.  Engagement which is a mutually beneficial and collective process which recognises the multiple voices present. The social, political and economic context of communities provides the catalyst for this praxis to occur.  It is an iterative process which is messy, contradictory and not linear, that acknowledges and attempts to minimise power differences.

  iii.   Scholarship which is gained through praxis that allows for the creation, interrogation, documentation and dissemination of knowledge in appropriate ways to multiple stakeholders

The centre aims to:

  • Facilitate the development and offering of modules at both under and postgraduate levels on the historical, sociological and practical aspects of the community school in South Africa.
  • Develop a course on the community school teacher that will focus on the knowledge, dispositions and skills required by current and aspiring educators in the community school.


  • Nelson Mandela University Education students will undertake internships in community schools as part of their course requirements.
  • Due to the cross-disciplinary focus of the Centre, internships will also be offered to students in other Nelson Mandela University faculties or departments (e.g. Social Work, Psychology, Counselling).

Research & Publications

  • The Centre’s research agenda aims to extend and deepen the knowledge base around community schools and the role of the school in the development context of South Africa.
  • Research opportunities for both master’s and doctoral students will be available through our projects.

Community School improvement programmes

  • A variety of programmes and events that focus on school and community improvement, including workshops, short learning programmes, guest lectures, film screenings, community conversations and information sessions.
  • Short Learning Programme: “Building the Community School: an approach to school improvement in South Africa”.

Partnerships and Networking

  • The Centre seeks to establish relationships with groups and organisations nationally and internationally in order to support and promote the concept of the community school.
  • Co-host of the Manyanyo Community Schools Conference that brings together education practitioners, scholars and
  • policymakers to share emerging research on community schools and practice-based models of school improvement.