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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

Her mission: Looking for viruses
2017-10-03

Description: Burt readmore Tags: Prof Felicity Burt, Felicity Burt, inaugural lecture, medical virology, UFS Faculty of Health Sciences, arboviruses 

Prof Felicity Burt delivering her inaugural lecture,
Catching a Virus
Photo: Stephen Collett

“Preparing and presenting an inaugural lecture is an opportunity to look back at one’s career and to enjoy previous highlights and achievements; to share these, not only with colleagues, but also with family and friends.”

This is according to Prof Felicity Burt, who recently presented her inaugural lecture, Catching a Virus. Prof Burt is a professor in medical virology in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS). It may sound ominous, but it is a story about identifying viruses, and finding and stopping them in their tracks in nature.

Research focus on arbo- and zoonotic viruses 
“My research focuses on arboviruses and zoonotic viruses,” said Prof Burt. “Arboviruses are viruses that are transmitted by insect vectors, such as mosquitoes, ticks, midges or sandflies, whereas zoonotic viruses are naturally transmitted from animals to humans. However, there is a considerable overlap between these two groups.” The research looks at host responses, virus discovery and surveillance in order to identify which of the viruses in circulation have the potential to cause human diseases.

“Emerging and re-emerging viruses have significant implications for public health,” said Prof Burt at the start of her lecture. She also stated that there have been disease outbreaks of unprecedented magnitude, which have spread and established in distinct geographic regions. “Many of these emerging viruses are transmitted by vectors or are spread to humans from animals. These viruses can cause significant diseases in humans,” said Prof Burt. 

There are many reasons why these viruses re-emerge, such as global warming, human invasion in forested areas, changes in agricultural practices, international travel, as well as the illegal movement of animals. Prof Burt used the Zika virus as an example of a recent emerging virus. 

More than 20 years’ experience 

With more than 20 years’ experience and a PhD in medical virology from the University of the Witwatersrand, Prof Burt is a renowned specialist. She has worked in the Special Pathogens Unit at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, and was a member of various teams responding to outbreaks of Ebola and Rift Valley fever in Africa and Saudi Arabia, respectively. She is co-author of more than 51 articles in international scientific journals, as well as six chapters on arboviruses. In 2016, she was awarded a SARChl research chair by the South African Research Chair Initiative for her research on vector-borne and zoonotic diseases.

Click here to read the full lecture.

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