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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 plays leading role in implementing curriculum for deaf learners
2013-08-15

 

Minister Angie Motshekga (front left) joined by members of the South African Sign Language task team. Behind Minister Motshekga’s shoulder is Dr Philemon Akach.
15 August 2013

South African Sign Language (SASL) will soon be offered as a school subject to Grade 0–12 learners in all 42 schools for the deaf in South Africa. Our Department of South African Sign Language had a role to play in this significant development that will empower deaf learners in South Africa and the continent.

Dr Philemon Akach, Head of the Department of South African Sign Language at the UFS, is part of the nine-member task team that recently handed over the SASL curriculum to the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga. The curriculum will be offered as a home language in all schools from 2014 and Grade 12 learners will be able to write it as a final-year examination subject.

Dr Akach – a member of the task team since 2009 – helped to coordinate the development of the curriculum.

The implementation of the curriculum means a lot to the Department of South African Sign Language, Dr Akach says. “We have championed the linguistic needs of the deaf community ever since we became the first university to offer SASL as an academic course, not only in South Africa, but also on the continent.”

Dr Akach says most Education students are already taking SASL as subject in his department, equipping them as prospective teachers to make implementation of the curriculum a smooth one. “Given our expertise, we will train teachers in the field and be involved in the setting and moderation of exam papers. The University of the Free State is no doubt a leader in this field.”

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