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29 January 2019 | Story Xolisa Mnukwa | Photo Anja Aucamp
Prof Francis Petersen speech
“We can create an institution that operates and lives in the times of embracing and celebrating diversity, inclusivity, and academic excellence by ensuring that students own their time at university,” said Prof Francis Petersen.

25 January 2019 marked the official welcoming of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) first-year students, as they moved into their respective residences and were warmly welcomed on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus. This day also marked the start of the registration process for first-year students.

According to first-year Psychology student Keisha Claasen, who moved into her residence earlier on 25 January, her first experience of the UFS was daunting but exciting, as she had never been in a similar environment. According to Given Gwerera, who dropped his son off at the Karee residence earlier the day, “the UFS is an institution with great culture and an overall good academic record.” He further explained that he trusts his son to make full use of the opportunities presented to him, as he has a cool head on his shoulders.

On the evening of 25 January, an eager group of millennials, joined by their parents, took the first sip from their cup of varsity life as they assembled on the Red Square of the Bloemfontein Campus to meet the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, members of Rectorate, the deans of all faculties, and the Student Representative Council (SRC) of the UFS.

“2019 will be a year of continued change; the UFS is thrilled about the prospect of bringing about opportunities for adaptation and realignment to the future,” said Prof Francis Petersen.

He further explained that the university prides itself in moulding its students into well-rounded individuals who will develop into globally competitive graduates as required in a diversity of landscapes. Prof Petersen urged first-years to remain open to the technological developments that go with globalisation, because of its permanent effects on society today.

First-years were further advised to take advantage of the rich pool of academic research and knowledge that is characteristic of the university and is piloted by UFS scholars, by engaging with and learning from them.

The inspiring night concluded on a colourful note, as the audience enjoyed an artistic laser show in front of the Main Building. Caption:

“UFS academics conduct research that forces the world to take note,” said Prof Francis Petersen at the official first-year welcoming ceremony on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus.

News Archive

Self-help building project helps to change lives
2017-12-15


 Description: Eco house read more Tags: Anita Venter, Start Living Green’, Earthship Biotecture Academy, construction skills 

Anita Venter, lecturer in the Centre for Development Support, with the residents of
the eco friendly house. Photo: Supplied

UFS PhD student Anita Venter did not know it in the beginning, but her doctoral research would eventually change her life and the lives of many others. 

The research was whether South Africa’s housing policies were socially and culturally responsive to grassroots reality in informal settlements. Venter agreed her research approach might have raised a few eye brows, but it was a journey she holds had more benefits than failures. 

Green living
For her case studies, Venter looked at ‘Start Living Green’ as a concept and further examined the implementation models of Earthship Biotecture Academy in New Mexico and Central America and the Long Way Home non-profit organisation in Guatemala. 

These groups train people with no specialised construction skills in applying and managing environmentally sound self-help building projects. Furthermore, their primary objectives were not building-related, but people-centred, with an advocacy role to create social, environmental and educational change through utilising the building technologies. 

It resulted in Venter signing up for a course in Guatemala to get the skills to implement her case studies here at home in Bloemfontein. 

An experimental mud, straw and waste material structure in her back yard grew into similar houses built in informal settlements, through the transfer of knowledge of indigenous building methods.  

Are rickety corrugated iron shacks only alternative?

Her case studies, one in Freedom Square in the Mangaung Metro Municipality, highlighted, among others, baffling tenure insecurities and “tangible conflicts” entrenched between Westernised and African perspectives on home ownership.

Venter says her thesis, in essence, did not oppose existing housing strategies but did challenge the applicability of an economically inclined model as the most appropriate housing option for millions of households living in informal settlements. 

The main findings of the case studies were that self-help building technologies and skills transfer could make a significant contribution to addressing housing shortages in the country; in particular in geographical locations such as the Free State province and other rural areas.

Venter’s own words after her academic endeavour are insightful: “These grassroots individuals’ courage to engage with me in unknown territories, gave me hope in humanity and inherent strength to keep on pursuing our vision of transforming informal settlements into evolving indigenous neighbourhoods of choice instead of only being living spaces of last resort.”

Positive results 
The study has had many positive results. The City of Cape Town is now looking at new innovative building technologies as a result. Most importantly Venter's study will open further discussions that necessarily challenge the status quo views in housing development. 

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