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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

National accolade for Dr Philemon Akach
2013-10-21

 

Dr Philemon Akach
Photo: Sonia Small
21 October 2013


Excellence in Teaching and Learning is highly regarded at the University of the Free State, with our academics recognised on national and international platform.

Earning yet another accolade for the university, Dr Philemon Akach, Head of the Department of South African Sign Language, has been awarded a National Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award. The award by the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of Southern Africa (HELTASA) and Council on Higher Education (CHE), recognised Dr Akach as a “leader in the field of teaching and learning – with impact beyond the classroom and the institution.” Recognising his pioneering work within deaf education, HELTASA and CHE commend Dr Akach as an “inspirational practitioner who recognises the inclusion of the marginalised in education.”

Dr Akach is one of five recipients, selected out of a total of 22 candidates from across South Africa that will receive the award. The other winners are from the University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of Pretoria. The five winners will receive the awards at a gala dinner at the annual HELTASA conference, which takes place from 26 to 29 November 2013.

Dr Akach, who will retire at the end of 2014, says the national recognition is the cherry on top as he prepares to return to his home country. Kenya. “How good can it be?” “This is my life calling,” he said about the 37 years he worked within deaf education.

The academic also received an Alumni Award for Outstanding Service at the recent Kovsie Alumni Awards.

Pioneering work by Dr Akach:

  • With Dr Akach steering the process, the UFS became the first university on the continent to offer Sign Language as an academic course in 1999.
  • Dr Akach was part of a nine-member task team that handed over the South African Sign Language (SASL) curriculum to the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga. A member of the ministerial task team since 2009, he helped to coordinate the development of the curriculum that will soon be offered as a school subject to Grade 0–12 learners in all 42 schools for the deaf in South Africa.

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