KOUGA Municipality: putting the community first.Committed to provide quality and sustainable housing for the less fortunate, some 94 councillors, municipal officials and traditional healers from Kouga and surrounding areas recently found themselves back at university to sharpen their human settlement skills.They were officially capped with a human settlements qualification after they completed short learning programmes. In a first for the Eastern Cape, the Department of Human Settlements, in partnership with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, implemented four short learning programmes to improve the skills and competitiveness of those at the forefront of housing in the area.The Short Learning Programme covered a wide range of subjects, including sustainable human settlement planning, construction management, housing project management and land policy legislation.“The Short Learning Programmes are very important to advance the human settlements development for the benefit of communities at a local level. The professionalisation of the sector through various academic programmes is a much-needed intervention which will further enhance human settlements programmes and delivery in the pro-vince,” says the MEC for Human Settlements, Helen Sauls-August.Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Zou-Kota Fredericks, says, “It was critical that we change the mindset from housing po-licy into new human settlements policy. This partnership with the university reaches the objectives of professionalising the sector. We are moving into establishing a professional body to regulate the sector.”According to the Chair of Human Settlements Degree at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Professor Sjekula Mbanga, the programme will not be campus-based and will soon be rolled out to the community to make it more accessible for everyone.