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07 May 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Noko Masalesa
Noko Masalesa, Director of Protection Services, in conversation with students and stakeholders to plan a safe way forward.

Safety and security are human rights that constitute social justice. At the centre of the agenda at the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Social Justice Week held on the Bloemfontein Campus from 17-22 April 2019 were discussions about off-campus safety. Stakeholders agreed on an upgrade to security measures in order to ensure the success and wellbeing of the student population.

A call to students

Prof John Mubangizi, Dean of the Faculty of Law, in his capacity as representative of the UFS Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, expressed his view on institutions of higher learning no longer functioning as ivory towers. “For any initiative to succeed, collaboration is necessary between key roleplayers,” he said.

He aptly pointed out that: “We cannot underscore the importance of safety and security, not only for the university but also for the communities around us. What the university does benefits the community and vice versa. I pledge the university’s commitment to play a leading part to ensure that the collaboration works,” said Prof Mubangizi.

Beefing up security: Who is involved?

In view of the collaborative effort Prof Mubangizi alluded to, the engagement was twofold. First was the roundtable discussion facilitated by Protection Services which then escalated into a public dialogue where students had the opportunity to interact with external delegates.

The South African Police Services, Community Police Forum, Private Security, Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, Provincial Commissioner, and Deputy Minister of Police were well represented in this critical conversation. Internally, members of Protection Services, Housing and Residence Affairs, Student Affairs, Institute for Social Justice and Reconciliation, Student Representative Council, and the Department of Criminology heard the plight of off-campus safety faced by students.

Changes in the horizon

The discussions culminated with recommendations which will see the future of student safety take a different direction. According to Skhululekile Luwaca, former SRC president, these include “the municipality’s commitment to immediately address issues such as street lights and enforcing by-laws, ensuring an integrated accreditation system, and drafting a policy for off-campus accommodation, running more crime awareness campaigns, and giving police patrols more visibility.”

In addition to resolving to set up a student safety forum with all the stakeholders, the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has invited the UFS to join Reclaim the City – a safety forum where practical solutions to crime are devised and implemented on a weekly basis.


News Archive

#Women'sMonth: PSP provides scholarly support system for Prof Wilson-Strydom
2017-08-17

Description: Merridy Wilson-Strydom Tags: National Research Foundation, Prof Merridy Wilson-Strydom, Centre for Research on Higher Education and Development, Prestige Scholars Programme, writing retreats, higher education literature 

Prof Merridy Wilson-Strydom loves asking questions and
therefore has a strong focus on research.
She also enjoys supervising PhD students.
Photo: Sonia Small


Publishing her first book and receiving a rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF) are career highlights for Prof Merridy Wilson-Strydom. As an emerging scholar, the Prestige Scholars Programme (PSP) of the University of the Free State (UFS) played an important role in reaching these goals. 

According to the Associate Professor in the Centre for Research on Higher Education and Development, the PSP provided an important scholarly support system, both through the coordinators and the other researchers who are part of the programme.

Writing retreats made book possible
“I found the support and advice provided during the process of applying for funding and rating really helpful,” she says about receiving a NRF C2 rating, based on her work over the past eight years.
She compliments the PSP writing retreats, which “provided a wonderful space for writing and it was during the writing retreats that I did a lot of the writing for my book that was published by Routledge in 2015.” Her book, University Access and Success: Capabilities, Diversity and Social Justice, moving back into academia from institutional research, working closely with undergraduate students as research participants, and postgraduate supervision, are all highlights of her work.

Her book makes a valuable contribution to higher education literature related to access and transition to universities. But, contrary to the mainstream approaches to access which rely on school performance and admissions tests, she poses the issue of social justice at the centre of the analysis.

Student project produces E-book
Another project headed by her and funded by the NRF Thuthuka Programme, was a study to understand the lives of 40 undergraduate students (on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus) who attended township high schools. The study had a particular focus on identifying institutional practices that either enable or constrain students’ capabilities for success in undergraduate study.

One of the outputs was the writing of an E-book called In our own words: Perspectives on being a student. It was written by 30 undergraduate students and the purpose was to provide a platform for students to tell their own stories about life as a student. 

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