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18 April 2019 | Story Rulanzen Martin

The Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice IRSJ) has initiated a Social Justice Week at the University of the Free State (UFS), which started on Friday 12 April  until Wednesday 17 April 2019. 

Ten key events took place during the week. It ranged from dialogues, workshops, talk shows, debates, and interactive displays and events on issues of multilingualism and diversity, social innovation, engaged scholarship, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, gender sensitisation, sexual consent, sexual preparedness, universal access, disability, anti-discrimination, and security.

There was also a round-table discussion on 17 April 2019 with various UFS stakeholders on off-campus student security as well as an inter-institutional discussion on the same topic. The UFS Debating Society will take on the topic of the UFS Language Policy, while Olga Barends from the Free State Centre for Human Rights will host a dialogue on sexual consent.

The IRSJ has also designed and implemented SOJO-VATION: Social Innovation/ Social Change, which strives to create a foundational platform where ideas of social justice, innovation, and engaged scholarship at the UFS and in society can be hosted. SOJO-VATION partners with the Office for Student Leadership, Development, and Community Engagement.

The collaborating partners for the Social Justice Week includes various UFS stakeholders such as the Sasol library, the Gender and Sexual Equity Office, UFS Protection Services, the Free State Centre for Human Rights, the Student Representative Council (SRC), the Office for Student Leadership Development, Kovsie Innovation, GALA, the FFree State Centre for Human Rights, SRC Associations, the Office for Student Governance, Kovsie Innovate, Start-Up-Grind, EVC, EBL, Community Engagement, the Institutional Transformation Plan (ITP) Dialogues Office, Residence Dialogues, UFS Debating Society, Debate Afrika!, the Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS), and the Gateway Office. 

News Archive

Graduates challenged to fulfil their leadership obligations
2015-12-14



Procession frontline: seen making their way to the graduation ceremony are from left: Dr Khotso Mokhele (Chancellor of the UFS), Prof Busisiwe Bhengu (Chairperson of the South African Nursing Council), and Prof Jonathan Jansen (Vice-Chancellor of the UFS).
Photo: Johan Roux

The time for one-dimensional discourse was over, said Professor Busisiwe Bhengu, the guest speaker at this year’s Summer Graduation. Practical implementation of change was the step forward in forging the path into a brighter South Africa future.

During both the morning and afternoon ceremonies held at the University of the Free State (UFS) Bloemfontein Campus on 10 December 2015, the Chairperson of the South African Nursing Council, and Associate Professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, challenged the newly-graduated alumni to rise to the occasion, and be a part of the solution to our country’s diverse challenges.

Some of the pervasive hardships she highlighted were human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and tuberculosis (TB), the escalating number of orphans and child-headed households, and the human resource shortages resulting from an ageing generation which is exiting the employment system through retirement.

Prior to dissolving the congregations, Dr Khotso Mokhele, the Chancellor of the UFS, said: “I was caught by the leadership challenge she [Prof Bhengu] threw out at the graduates because we indeed need courageous, creative and innovative leaders moving forward,” he said.

Dr Mokhele touched on South Africa’s dwindling economy, the leadership issues engulfing the government currently, the #FeesMustFall movement, and how students led a difficult dialogue and dictated the country’s trajectory as regards education, as well as the water scarcity we are facing. In closing, he warned that the graduates had lost the luxury of feeling led because of the fact that they now have a leadership obligation to fulfil.

Highlights of the day

Amongst 102 graduates from the UFS School of Medicine were two brothers from the Free State, Johann and Rudi Westraad who followed each other’s passion to become doctors.

Deputy Registrar at the UFS, Elna Van Pletzen, graduated with a Master’s in Higher Education Studies. Her thesis titled ”The implications of current legislative changes for academic freedom and institutional autonomy of South African higher education institutions”, focused on the amendment of Higher Education and Training Laws Amendment Act of 2012. In it, she tackled the subjects of academic freedom and the relationship between government and higher education institutions. Coincidently, her research was produced at a time when the subject of university autonomy was on the national agenda.

The occasion was not only a celebration of the students; teachers were also recognised for their dedication to quality education. Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS congratulated Dr Louise van den Berg (Faculty of Health Sciences) as well as Naquita Fernandes and Salomien Boshoff (both from the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences) for their outstanding achievements. At a recent ceremony, Dr Van den Berg received the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for an individual teacher, and the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for the best teaching team was presented to Fernandes and Boshoff.

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