17 April 2019 | Story Mamosa Makaya
National Lotteries Commission
Front row from the left: Dr MA Madzivhandila (board member), Prof YN Gordhan (board member), Ms Charlotte Mampane (Commissioner), Prof D Coetzee (South Campus Principal), Ms Bish B Ramahlele (Director: Community Engagement) Back row from the left T Mandyu (Provincial Manager), Prof NA Nevhutanda (Chairman of the Board), Mr F Van Der Wat (Deputy Director: KovsieSport)

The University of the Free State (UFS) has over many years embarked on developmental projects to improve and upgrade its sports facilities, sports research, medical research, arts and cultural programmes and community focused programmes. These projects were made possible with the financial support of the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) which has provided funding through grants to the UFS since 2006. The UFS office of Institutional Advancement (IA) hosted the NLC on the Bloemfontein Campus on 5 April 2019, where a presentation on the success of projects was made. The role of the IA office is to ensure that the university complies with reporting requirements set out in the grant agreements and that the university maintains good relations with the NLC over the long term.

Funding fortifies UFS projects
Feedback on the success and impact of various projects was presented, such as the visual arts project. This includes the public sculpture project funded with over R3 million in 2009, which brought about the creation of outdoor sculptures that can be seen on the university grounds produced by local and regional sculptors. Feedback was provided by Ms Angela de Jesus, Curator, UFS Arts Collection and Assistant Director: Johannes Stegmann Gallery.  

In 2010 the NLC funded the upgrading of the UFS swimming pool for more than R2 million. The pool was rebuilt to bring it up to Olympic standards, allowing UFS students to have a facility at which to train for international swimming competitions. Feedback on the project was provided by Mr Frans van der Wat, Deputy Director: KovsieSport. Other funded projects are the Khoisan early learning centre, which teaches young learners on the history and culture of the “first people” of South Africa, and the Arts in Schools Project, which were both funded in 2009 for more than R6 million combined. More funded projects include the upgrading of the Johannes Stegmann Gallery in 2017, research into swimming in the Free State, and equipment for the South African Doping Control Laboratory (SADOCol), which is the only laboratory of its kind in Africa, which were funded between 2010 and 2012, totalling R4.8million.

Community development and engaged scholarship
After the change in the mandate of the Provincial Arts Council of the Free State (PACOFS) after 1996, many local dramatic arts professionals in the province were faced with dwindling work opportunities. The UFS, through the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts, stepped in to create arts programmes that would help develop and retain the skills of local performers and playwrights and an opportunity for them to be trained and directed by UFS and industry-based professional directors. 

Prof Nico Luwes, from the UFS Department of Drama and Theatre Arts, said: “I initiated the formation of the Free State Theatre Acts (FACTS) as a section 21 Company with committee members from UFS staff and local actors, with the aim of creating work for professional actors in the greater Bloemfontein area.” A combination of grants from the NLC and the UFS Department of Drama, between 2006 and 2010 resulted in 19 professional plays and four professional musicals, performed by Free State professional artists including community players from Heidedal, Botshabelo and drama students, using English, Afrikaans and Sesotho. These initiatives brought together students and artists from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, who worked together to perform at local and national arts festivals. Although the NLC will not be funding arts and culture projects at universities in the 2019-2020 financial year, the university is hopeful to be considered in the future.

The UFS and NLC have had a successful working relationship and the feedback session aimed to strengthen the ties between them. Members of the board of the NLC expressed pride at how the UFS has developed not only its own projects, but the Free State community as well. The team was treated to an art exhibition of the work of Cape Town-based artist Ieshaan Adams at the Johannes Stegmann gallery.