6 April 2022

Fashion Design students give back to community

by Gerrit Bester

The saying goes that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. This principle was put into practice at the Department of Design Studies (Fashion Design) from 21 to 25 March when students imparted their sewing and patternmaking skills to a group of 47 ladies, aged 19 to 28, as part of a community outreach programme. 

The brainchild behind the project is Rose-Mary Naidoo, lecturer at the Department, who says she has always had a heart for the community, especially upskilling people to make a difference in their lives.

The project stems from a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between TUT and the Networking HIV and Aids Community of Southern Africa (NACOSA).

NACOSA is a network of over 2 500 civil society organisations working together to turn the tide on HIV, AIDS, and TB in Southern Africa. It promotes dialogue, builds capacity with accredited training, mentoring, and technical assistance, and channels resources to support service delivery on the ground, particularly among children and youth, key populations, and women and girls. Childline Gauteng and the Beulah Africa Foundation are affiliated with NACOSA and people benefiting from its services were also involved in the project. 

The project includes 58 second-year students who gain invaluable Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) experience, and community service. The latter forms an integral part of TUT training. An additional fifteen third-year students also benefit from the project in terms of WIL. 

“This project highlights one of many ways that the Department is integrating learning, teaching, and engagement in its programmes as envisioned in TUT’s vision statement,” says Rose-Mary. 

“Many of the participants are not employed and this initiative can set them up for business. People are always in need of clothes, and that makes sewing such a valuable skill.”

Before the project commenced, students interviewed the participants individually to get a grasp of their lives. Rose-Mary says this exercise made them realise just how fortunate they are to be able to study and to show more empathy.  

In addition to the sewing and patternmaking skills, participants were taught how to operate a sewing machine, sizing skills, and the types of stitches on a sewing machine.

It was a proud moment on Friday, 25 March, when the ladies got the chance to show off the garments (skirts) that they sewed during the week.

Asked what the project meant to her, Zoine Malinga, says: “I learnt a lot about sewing, and gained a lot of knowledge from this project. I am so grateful to the University for this opportunity.”

Second-year student, Rȍgene Moilwa, says: “I’ve learnt that knowledge is only as valuable as its quality, if it is shared with others around you. You learn and understand better when explaining or educating another person.”

Second-year student, Nokuphiwayinkosi Sithole, adds: “You're not only sharing your knowledge, but expanding the little you have.”

Rose-Mary concludes that it is worrisome that some community outreach programmes end shortly after it had started. “What happens afterwards?” she asks.

Therefore, the programme, in addition to opening the door for setting up businesses, also investigates the possibility of including Short-Learning-Programmes (SLP’s), which could even lead to further studies in Fashion Design. 

  • The project was sponsored by Jimnettes and Bursars SA.




It was a proud moment when participants of the Design Studies community engagement project showed off their completed skirts and certificates of attendance on the final day. They are flanked by Dr Sipho Mbatha, Head of the Department of Design Studies, and lecturer, Rose-Mary Naidoo.
Participants of the Design Studies community engagement project on the final day with their completed skirts. Fourth from left is lecturer, Rose-Mary Naidoo, brainchild behind the project.
An additional fifteen third-year students also benefit from the project in terms of WIL. Here they pose with staff members and representatives from Childline and Beulah Africa.
Design Studies (Fashion Design) second-year students. 
Dr Sipho Mbatha, Head of the Department of Design Studies, handing over a certificate of attendance to a participant of the Design Studies community engagement project.
Students imparting their fashion design skills.

PHOTOS: by Sean Muila, Sea'N'Sky Photography

For more information on the Tshwane University of Technology, please contact Phaphama Tshisikhawe, Corporate Affairs and Marketing.
Tel: +27 12 382 4711 Email: tshisikhawerpt@tut.ac.za