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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

UFS on the right track with transformation - Fulbright scholars
2010-08-27

 
Pictured from the left, are: Dr Wilmore-Schaeffer, Rev. Dr Streets and Ms Leah Naidoo (Senior Administrator of the Institute).
Photo: Mangaliso Radebe

“I think the university is not only on the right track but can really become a model for how to negotiate certain difficult processes, such as transformation, within a short period of time. I think it can become a model, not just for other universities, but also for the world.”

This was said by Dr Rozetta Wilmore-Schaeffer, who together with Rev. Dr Frederick J. Streets, recently worked with the International Institute for Race, Reconciliation and Social Justice at the University of the Free State (UFS) as Fulbright specialists. They helped the institute come up with ideas in terms of making the changes that are necessary for the transformation of the university.

“There is a great deal that has already been done despite the sense of urgency and impatience, and I think there is a great deal more to be done,” said Dr Wilmore-Schaeffer.

“I think this sense of urgency comes from those who are involved in the process of looking at the destination, the place that they want to be at, and feeling that they are very far from it.”

During their visit here the two had numerous conversations with both staff members and students.

“I have been most impressed by the students who I think are ready to make changes in many different ways – I am talking about students of all racial groups and gender. The fact that they are referring to transformation as ‘their struggle’ shows that they are prepared to make changes,” said Dr Wilmore-Schaeffer.
She, however, cautioned that there were those who were still against transformation taking place at the university.

“I think there is still some resistance from some quarters on both sides of the fence and I would expect that at this point in time. I think what is really hopeful is that there are so many students who are ready to make the changes, who are making the changes, who are struggling with issues around making the changes; and I think that is really the hope for the university and the hope for the future,” she said.

“The resistance is complex,” added Rev. Dr Streets. “It is around a fear for the future, the loss of identity on the part of both black and white students, and the desire for cultural continuity amongst white students as well as amongst a variety of ethnic black students.

“The resistance is about learning that you are not the only kid on the block anymore and how you then overcome the feeling of realising that you are not the dominant person anymore and that your culture is not the dominant culture anymore.”

They have given a preliminary report of their findings to the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, Prof. Jonathan Jansen, which will be followed by a more detailed report later on.
 

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