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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 gets support for improving university access and success in South Africa
2013-10-24

 

Members of the SASSE Research team are from left: Carike Jordaan, Dr Francois Strydom, Lana Swart, Seisho Gaboutlwelweboutlwelwakemo, Michael Henn en Katleho Nyaile.
Photo: Supplied
24 October 2013

The university’s Centre of Teaching and Learning (CTL) received a grant for US$820 000 (about R8 million) from the Kresge Foundation for their South African Survey of Student Engagement (SASSE) research team.

The SASSE research team is committed to furthering student access with success by promoting quality teaching and learning institutionally and promoting collective impact around student success nationally.

Through this three-year project, the SASSE team aims to provide a range of deeply contextualised and globally benchmarked student engagement measures that can be used at institutional and module/course level for the South African context. The data from these measures can be used to improve the quality of undergraduate teaching and learning, and participating institutions will have access to appropriate capacity development interventions to empower them to use the data to promote evidence-based change in their institutions.

Dr Francois Strydom, Academic Director at the CTL, says the lessons from this higher-education project could be used to develop a stronger post-school sector which could help the country to deal with the massive challenge of youth unemployment; thereby promoting equity, social justice and a prosperous democracy in South Africa.

The Kresge Foundation is a private philanthropic foundation in the United States, which is focused on creating opportunity for low-income people through various programmes. This three-year project forms part of the Kresge Foundation’s Education Programme, which focuses on promoting access and success at South African universities. Therefore the SASSE project aims to contribute to the Kresge-sponsored Access and Success in Higher Education in South Africa (ASHESA), to promote a national conversation on improving student success.

In January this year, the university was one of four South African universities selected to take part in a multi-million rand programme to bolster private fund-raising and advancement efforts. For this programme the UFS was granted US$640 000 (about R5,6 million) over a period of five years.

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