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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

Victory lies beyond the moment
2017-12-25


 Description: 2017 Victory lies beyond the moment Tags: 2017 Victory lies beyond the moment 

Mokoena learns a new skill at the Learning Festival arranged
by the Centre for Community Engagement.
Photo: Igno van Niekerk

For Mokoena it was just a regular day. Another day. Another rush. As a taxi driver you get used to the adrenaline, taking gaps, foot on the accelerator. Alert. Honking hooters. Angry drivers.

Then it came out of nowhere. A stroke. The one side of his body was going numb. What was happening? What about his job? His income? His life?

Fast-forward a few years.

I meet Mokoena at the Learning Festival arranged by the Centre for Community Engagement, in association with Bloemshelter on the University of the Free State’s Bloemfontein Campus. A reserved young man, Mokoena is busy at one of the stands where a range of people from rural communities come to learn new skills. At no cost. They then go back to teach the skills they learnt in their communities. Job creation, that’s the philosophy: as you develop, you need to develop others. 

When I talk to Karen Venter, Head of Service Learning at the Centre for Community Engagement, the stories are overwhelming. “There was the lady who attended 19 workshops in two days. She went back to her community, shared her knowledge and became an entrepreneur helping others take care of themselves.”

New skills
Mokoena is also here to acquire new skills. After his stroke he was told by occupational therapy students about a project that teaches you to build your own house with raw materials. He takes out his cellphone with a sense of pride. Scrolls through some pictures: “This is my house. I built it from all kinds of things, cow manure, bottles, clay, other people’s rubbish.” The pictures show a house in a neat environment. Solid. Proud. A lot of healing came with building the house. Karen explains: “The physical work he was doing, pushing a wheelbarrow and working, but more than that – the knowledge that he could take charge, make a difference, work on a dream – the healing power of a sense of purpose. He became stronger and more confident.”

Victory 
Mokoena walks back to the sewing workshop he was attending before sharing his story. The buzz continues inside the Equitas Building where artisans, entrepreneurs and UFS staff are sharing their skills. Sewing machines hum away and infrequent beeps sound from a table where an excited group of non-scientists have just completed the building of circuits. Faces light up with every beep. Hands raised. Fists clenched. Victory!

But the victory lies beyond the moment. It’s in the confidence, the learning, and the sharing that will be taking place when these people go back to their communities. Some will participate in research projects; others will benefit from curricular requirements leading students into distant communities, and others will be hosting workshops at the next Learning Festival. 

And there will be more great stories. Like Mokoena’s.

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