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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

Kovsies still enjoy successful exchange opportunity
2010-08-25

 
Students Ian Botha, Lize Swart and SW Meintjies with Prof. Izak Groenewald (second from right) at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg upon the student’s recent departure to Virginia Tech. Photo: Supplied

More than a decade ago, the then Chairperson of Free State Agriculture, Piet Gous, in collaboration with the then Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof. Piet Wilke, started an exchange initiative which still makes a difference to students’ lives today.

Students at the university get the opportunity to go and study at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Blacksburg in the United States of America (USA) during the second semester. During the first semester the UFS then receive American students. Since its inception in 1998, 142 students have already participated in the exchange programme.

“It is not only about six months’ studies at an American university. It is about the expansion of horizons, the creation of new frames of reference and exposure to other cultures and customs in order to attain and experience more life capacity,” says Prof. Izak Groenewald, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development at the UFS. Prof. Groenewald has acted as coordinator of this student exchange programme since 1997.

According to Prof. Groenewald, the secret of the successful programme rests with the fact that Kovsies pay their tuition and accommodation fees at the UFS as if they were studying here. However, they enjoy the privileges at Virginia Tech. Similarly, the American students pay their corresponding fees at Virginia Tech and then enjoy the privileges offered by the UFS. 

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