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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

New digital planetarium first of its kind for Sub-Saharan Africa
2013-10-10

Mr Andrew Johnson, Sky-Skan engineer, explains how the dataprojector of the new digital planetarium functions.
10 October 2013

The University of the Free State (UFS) is the first in the world to boast a modern digital planetarium which was erected within an existing observatory.

It is also the first planetarium of its kind for Sub-Saharan Africa.

“What makes the project unique is the fact that we convert the existing observatory structure into a modern digital planetarium. It hasn’t been done anywhere else,” says Andrew Johnson, engineer at Sky-Skan, the company supplying the equipment and also installing it.

Andrew has worked on similar projects, with his company installing digital planetariums around the world.

What makes the planetarium so special is the fact that it offers visitors an inclusive experience.

“Previously visitors could only watch projected stars and constellations, but with the digital planetarium they can now experience a journey through space which feels very close to reality.”

Andrew points out that, apart from stargazing and travelling through space, the digital planetarium allows the audience to visit planets, explore the secrets of the oceans or even organs in the human body.

The planetarium will also be used for concerts, state-of-the-art presentations, theatre productions, as well as meetings, conferences and exhibitions.

The auditorium can seat approximately 90 adults or 120 children.

The digital dome that was recently fitted into the existing observatory structure, is a 12-metre seamless aluminium screen complemented by a powerful surround-sound system and multiple data projectors from Sky-Skan. This results in an immersive experience of the digital universe, as well as the recreation of the macro and micro cosmos an a variety of other environments.

The planetarium will be officially opened on Friday 1 November 2013 by Derek Hanekom, Minister of Science and Technology. Prof Matie Hoffman from the Department of Physics at the UFS is delighted at this visit from Minister Hanekom.

“This recognition and national interest demonstrates the importance and contribution of the first digital planetarium in Sub-Saharan Africa to science and astronomy.  It is also evidence that a facility like this is important for the training of the next generation of scientists.”

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