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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

Tactile paving assists visually impaired
2017-10-28

Description: ' 000 Blind Tactile Paving Tags: Blind Tactile Paving

Tactile paving is being installed at pedestrian crossings to assist
visually-impaired persons at the UFS.
Photo: Supplied

Crossing roads and accessing buildings has always been a challenge for people with visual impairments. They had to rely on peripheral sounds, such as car brakes and cues. However, after the installation of tactile paving – paving with special textures assisting the visually impaired to feel the difference between walking around on campus and crossing the road, this will no longer be a problem at the University of the Free State (UFS).

This is one of several developments that University Estates’ Department of Facilities Planning has in the pipeline for 2017 in order to ensure that the university attains its key component in providing a high-quality student experience.

Maureen Khati, Assistant Director of Project Management: Facilities Planning, says, “We saw the need to install these paving blocks in strategic spaces, as identified by the Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS).” She says these blocks will make it easier for people with visual impairments.

Special features designed to aid visually-impaired persons

These installations have special features that will assist those students and employees with limited vision or blindness to navigate through pedestrian crossings and the different campus buildings. The university chose a unique design of tactile paving that focuses on warning and directing those with visual impairments.

UFS eager to improve accessibility and mobility

The university, and all the stakeholders involved in this initiative, are delighted to be embarking on this project and are looking forward to its successful execution. To improve accessibility and mobility, more accessible entrances and exits will be built, effective signage will be installed inside and outside buildings, but the most important aspect is that dedicated seating space will be made available in lecture rooms for special-needs students.

Khati says, “More focus has been put on installing ramps in all buildings to make them more accessible for people with disabilities, as well as other needs required to enhance accessibility at the UFS.”

For the UFS, this initiative is one of many to come, as extensive research is being done and priorities are implemented accordingly.

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