University of the Free State, South Africa
There are four decades worth of cross-contextual research that supports Service-learning (SL) as effective pedagogical practice in universities in the Global North. However, relatively little is explored regarding its potential to advance citizenship (Nussbaum, 2010;1997;McCowan, 2012;Annette, 2005), conscientization (Cipolle, 2010) and civic agency (Walker and McLean, 2013) among students and in the broader society, especially in the African context. Using the capability approach (CA) as developed by Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum and others, this article draws attention to the potential ways in which SL impacts students in the direction of the above-mentioned values. The paper uses qualitative data gathered through interviews with 16 lecturers and 4 focus groups with 48 students in two faculties from the case of one South African university. These results were analysed using core constructs of CA to determine how SL impacts students’ citizenship, conscientization and civic agency. The findings indicate that students involved in SL develop capabilities and capacities that cut across issues of citizenship, conscientization and civic agency, which are fundamental for flourishing individual and wider society. These capabilities and capacities include inter alia., affiliation, informed vison, social and collective struggle, empathy and caring, dealing with diversity, agency and aspiration for change in communities. These values are likely to be fostered because SL offers students opportunities to interact among and between each other, engage with people in need and encounter complex issues in communities. The study is significant because it contributes to the search for an educational practice that can enable universities to foster citizenship, conscientization and civic agency. These are critical issues that need to be cultivated among students in an increasingly connected, complex and unequal world.