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26 February 2019 | Story Eugene Seegers | Photo Eugene Seegers
Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Daniella Coetzee, South Campus Principal, Tshegofatso Setilo, Director Access, Prof Prakash Naidoo, Vice-Rector Operations
Prof Francis Petersen, Prof Daniella Coetzee (Principal: South Campus), Tshegofatso Setilo (Head: Access Programmes), and Prof Prakash Naidoo (Vice-Rector: Operations) on the South Campus for the welcoming of first-years.


“Welcome to the South Campus of the University of the Free State!” Addressing a packed Madiba Arena, Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, said he was happy to see not only first-year students, but also parents and guardians, student leadership, and support staff from both the Bloemfontein and South Campuses.

 “I would like to congratulate each of our first-year students for making the decision to come to Kovsies to further your studies here. But I would also like to thank you for making this choice,” he continued.

Prof Petersen further emphasised that the students’ experience and success as individuals are important to the UFS as an institution; therefore, academic and support staff are on hand to guide them through their journey to becoming well-rounded individuals. “We will surely take care of you,” said Prof Petersen. He also reassured parents and guardians that their loved ones would be well looked after.

The Rector also focused attention on the role of student-leadership structures, such as the newly-formed Institutional Student Representative Council (ISRC) and South Campus SRC, members of which were present in the audience. He thanked them for playing a key role in the student constituency, highlighting their support and guidance to help first-years cultivate a sense of belonging at the UFS.

Turning back to first-year students, Prof Petersen stated that they have the unique opportunity to study on a campus specifically focused on developing their full potential, a campus where they can realise their dreams. “Your arrival on the campus marks a new chapter in your life. This chapter is slightly different, as you are the author thereof. The previous chapters in your life were largely written by others—your parents, guardians, families, teachers, and others. You will now be the main author in the next chapter of your unique story.”

“At Kovsies, we believe in developing students in their totality as human beings, not just the academic side. May your time with us equip you to make a success of your life after university!”

Prof Petersen’s Message to First-year Students
  1. Take responsibility for your academic programme.
    • Keep your focus. Study and study hard. You will reap the rewards and see the advantages of making success in your studies a top priority.
    • Make sure that you have enough time for your studies; balance your social life and your time set aside to study.
  2. Realise and remember that you are not alone.
    • If you find things difficult, seek help.
    • Our Department of Student Counselling and Development has trained staff and tailor-made programmes that can assist you.
    • Look after your mental health—and look after each other’s mental health.
  3. Make the most of your time at Kovsies.
    • Join one or more of the student organisations; why not try something new?
  4. Embrace difference and diversity.
    • Get to know students who are different from you.
    • You will lose valuable opportunities to grow if you only associate with your own all the time. It is important to get to know students who are different from you. It could be someone from a different part of the country, or from another country, a different ethnicity, a different religion, someone who has different views from yours, or who has different interests and perspectives.

News Archive

Sites of memory. Sites of trauma. Sites of healing.
2015-04-01

Judge Albie Sachs – human rights activist and co-creator of South Africa’s constitution – presented the first Vice Chancellor’s Lecture on Trauma, Memory, and Representations of the Past on 26 March 2015 on the Bloemfontein Campus.

His lecture, ‘Sites of memory, sites of conscience’, forms part of a series of lectures that will focus on how the creative arts represent trauma and memory – and how these representations may ultimately pave the way to healing historical wounds. This series is incorporated into the five-year research project, led by Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, and funded by the Mellon Foundation.

Sites of memory and conscience – and healing

“Deep in solitary confinement, I read in the Bible: ‘the lion lay down with the lamb … swords will be beaten into ploughshares.’” And with these opening words, Judge Sachs took the audience on a wistful journey to the places in our country that ache from the past but are reaching for a better future at the same time.

Some of the sites of memory and conscience Judge Sachs discussed included the Apartheid Museum, Liliesleaf, District Six Museum, and the Red Location Museum. But perhaps most powerful of them all is Robben Island.

Robben Island

“The strength of Robben Island,” Judge Sachs said, “comes from its isolation. Its quietness speaks”. Former prisoners of the island now accompany visitors on their tours of the site, retelling their personal experiences. It was found that, the quieter the ex-prisoners imparted their stories, “the gentler and softer their memories; the more powerful the impact,” Judge Sachs remarked. Instead of anger and denouncement, this reverence provides a space for visitors’ own emotions to emerge. This intense and powerful site has become a living memory elevated into a place of healing.

After Judge Sachs visited the National Women’s Memorial in Bloemfontein some years ago, he came to an acute realisation as he read the stories, experienced the grief, and saw the small relics that imprisoned commandoes from Ceylon and St Helena sculpted. “It’s so like us,” he thought, “our people on Robben Island making a saxophone out of seaweed, our people carving little things. It was so like us. It was another form of inhumanity to human beings in another period.”

The Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court next to the Old Fort Prison is also a profound site of trauma and healing. Bricks from the awaiting trial lock-up were built into the court chambers. “We don’t suppress it, we don’t say let’s move on. We acknowledge the pain of the past. We live in it, but we are not trapped in it. We South Africans are capable of transcending, of getting beyond it,” Judge Sachs said.

Transforming swords into ploughshares

Judge Sachs had great praise for Prof Gobodo-Madikizela’s research project on Trauma, Memory, and Representations of the Past. “You convert and transform the very swords, the very instruments, the very metal in our country. In a sense, you almost transform the very people and thoughts and dreams and fears and terrors into the ploughshares; into positivity.”

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