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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

Using sugar to make the world a sweeter place
2017-10-13

Description: Deepback sugar Tags: Sugarcane, Dr Deepack Santchurn, Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute (MSIRI), Department of Plant Sciences 

Dr Deepack Santchurn, former PhD student in the
Department of Plant Sciences at the UFS,
and plant breeder in the  Mauritius Sugar Industry
Research Institute, with Prof Maryke Labuschagne, left,
Dr Santchurn’s study leader.
Photo: Charl Devenish



Besides it mainly being used for sugar production, sugarcane has emerged as an important alternative for providing clean renewable energy. Dr Deepack Santchurn, who works in the sugarcane breeding department of the Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute (MSIRI), believes if he could contribute towards a more environment-friendly and renewable energy through the use of sugarcane biomass, he would consider himself having made a great leap towards a better world. 

Sugarcane is mostly known and exploited for the sugar in its cane stem. According to Dr Santchurn it is not the only thing the crop does well. “Together with certain grasses, it is the finest living collector of sunlight energy and a producer of biomass in unit time. Sugarcane is now recognised worldwide as a potential renewable and environment-friendly bioenergy crop.” 

Significantly more bioenergy can be produced from sugarcane if the production system is not focused on the production and recovery of sucrose alone but on the maximum use to the total above-ground biomass. Diversification within the sugarcane industry is of paramount importance. 

He has been able to identify a few high biomass varieties that can be exploited industrially. One of the varieties is a commercial type with relatively high sugar and low fibre in the cane stem. Dr Santchurn explains: “Its sucrose content is about 0.5% less than the most cultivated commercial variety in Mauritius. Nevertheless, its sugar yield and above-ground biomass yield surpass those of the commercial varieties by more than 24%. The genetic gains compared to commercial varieties were around +50% for total biomass yield and +100% for fibre yield. Its cultivation is strictly related to bio-energy production and the extracted juice can be used as a feed-stock for ethanol and other high-value products.”

Dr Santchurn received his PhD at the UFS’s Department of Plant Sciences during the Winter Graduation Ceremonies in June this year. His study leader was Prof Maryke Labuschagne from the Department of Plant Sciences. 

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