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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

Research into veld fires in grassland can now help with scientifically-grounded evidence
2015-04-10

While cattle and game farmers are rejoicing in the recent rains which large areas of the country received in the past growing season, an expert from the University of the Free State’s Department of Animal, Wildlife, and Grassland Sciences, says that much of the highly inflammable material now available could lead to large-scale veld fires this coming winter.

Prof Hennie Snyman, professor and  researcher in the Department of Animal, Wildlife, and Grassland Sciences, warns that cattle and game farmers should be aware, in good time, of this problem which is about to rear its head. He proposes that farmers must burn firebreaks as a precaution.

At present, Prof Snyman focuses his research on the impact of fire and burning on the functioning of the grassland ecosystem, especially in the drier grassland regions.

He says the impact of fire on the functioning of ecosystems in the ‘sour’ grassland areas of Southern Africa (which includes Kwazulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, the Eastern Cape, and the Harrismith environs) is already well established, but less information  is available for ‘sweet’ semi-arid grassland areas. According to Prof Snyman, there is no reason to burn grassland in this semi-arid area. Grazing by animals can be effectively used because of the high quality material without having to burn it off. In the sourer pasturage, fire may well form part of the functioning of the grassland ecosystem in view of the fact that a quality problem might develop after which the grass must rejuvenate by letting it burn.

Prof Snyman, who has already been busy with the research for ten years, says quantified data on the impact of fire on the soil and plants were not available previously for the semi-arid grassland areas. Fires start frequently because of lightning, carelessness, freak accidents, or damaged power lines, and farmers must be recompensed for this damage.

The shortage of proper research on the impact of fires on soil and plants has led to burnt areas not being withdrawn from grazing for long enough. The lack of information has also led to farmers, who have lost grazing to fires, not being compensated fairly or even being over-compensated.

“When above-and below-ground plant production, together with efficient water usage, is taken into account, burnt grassland requires at least two full growing seasons to recover completely.”       

Prof Snyman says farmers frequently make the mistake of allowing animals to graze on burnt grassland as soon as it begins to sprout, causing considerable damage to the plants.

“Plant roots are more sensitive to fire than the above-ground plant material. This is the reason why seasonal above-ground production losses from fire in the first growing season after the fire can amount to half of the unburnt veld. The ecosystem must first recover completely in order to be productive and sustainable again for the long term. The faster burnt veld is grazed again, the longer the ecosystem takes to recover completely, lengthening the problem with fodder shortages further.  

Prof Snyman feels that fire as a management tool in semi-arid grassland is questionable if there is no specific purpose for it, as it can increase ecological and financial risk management in the short term.

Prof Snyman says more research is needed to quantify the impact of runaway fires on both grassland plant productivity and soil properties in terms of different seasonal climatic variations.

“The current information may already serve as valuable guidelines regarding claims arising from unforeseen fires, which often amount to thousands of rand, and are sometimes based on unscientific evidence.”

Prof Snyman’s research findings have been used successfully as guidelines for compensation aspects in several court cases.

 

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