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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.


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Inter-religion Forum established at UFS
2010-05-28

 Persons who attended the founding meeting are, from the left, front: Mr Sunil Poken (representative from the Hindu religion), Ms Ria Paz (Jewish religion), Mr Ronnie Rosen (Jewish religion); back: Rev. Nic Schmidt (Christian), Mr Misaac Davids (Bah'ai religion), Mr Douglas Henney (Bah'ai religion), Rev. Maniraj Sukdaven (Christian religion), and Mr Kebra Melkitsedek (Rastafarian religion).

 
An Inter-religion Forum (IRF) was established by Rev. Manirjaj Sukdaven, Head of the Department Religion Studies at the University of the Free State (UFS). Representatives from different religions were invited to the founding meeting of the IRF. Religions that showed interest to become involved in the IRF include, amongst others, Ba’hai, Rastafarians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists en New Age followers. The IRF will, amongst others, assist in the compilation of course material about different religions. The forum has also arranged a series of meetings where representatives of different religions discussed the question, “Why am I here?” This is the first forum of this nature at a tertiary institution in South Africa.

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