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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

The solution to student food insecurity is a holistic approach
2017-02-10

Description: Dietetics read more Tags: Dietetics read more

Dr Louise van den Berg from the Department of
Nutrition and Dietetics says the University of the Free State
is taking steps to teach students how to budget and make
them aware how important food nutrition is.
Photo: Pixabay 

Research at the University of the Free State (UFS) has indicated that nearly 60% of students are victims of food insecurity and suffer from hunger most of the time. The research by the UFS Faculty of Health Sciences shows that a further 25% are food insecure but are not hungry most of the time.

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dr Louise van den Berg, says food insecurity is common among student populations across the world. However, local research shows that it is almost double that of tertiary institutions in developed countries.

Food insecurity among students caught many people off-guard
Dr Van den Berg says in South Africa nobody had really looked at the problem until recently “It seems student food insecurity has caught many people off-guard.” She says people tend to think of tertiary students as a privileged group.

The research has now indicated how deep the problem really is on campus. The students that most likely go hungry are single, male, black or coloured, and are generally first-generation students.

They are also mostly undergraduates, those paying their studies from non-bank loans or bursary means, those not living with their parents or guardians or those that need to support somebody else financially.

The results further indicate that those that are likely to suffer from hunger seldom or never have enough money for food but have to borrow money for food, have to ask for food, sell items to get food or steal food.

“A healthy student is a
successful student.”

Bursary money send back home for parents to survive
Dr Van den Berg agrees that one of the main reasons for the situation is economic stress. Research has shown students rarely spend money on food when resources are scarce. Furthermore, parents of students studying with bursaries are not always able to fully support them on campus. Some students send bursary money back home for their parents to survive.

She says other factors that contribute to campus food insecurity are that all over the world universities have terminated catered food halls due to high costs. “To a large extent this has created a food desert for students and now they need to look after themselves.”

To throw money at the problem does not seem to be the answer. 

Students are food-uncertain beings
The research indicates that young people on campus do not know where to buy food, much less the correct, nutritional food they need. Dr Van den Berg says most universities are now aware of the problem and have been taking steps. This includes teaching students how to budget and making them aware how important nutrition is for their success and their responsibility for themselves.

Universities are also looking at private funding for food aid and food schemes. Dr Van den Berg says other solutions are the restructuring of bursary fees, student self-help initiatives and food gardens.

The Faculty of Health Sciences is taking the initiative to manage a food blog on the UFS website. It will also use other social media platforms to post food-preparation videos and recipes for students.

Dr Van den Berg says it is important to grow the 15.6% group of students who indicated they are food secure because a healthy student is a successful student.

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