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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

Professor triumphs at Water Research Commission (WRC) Symposium
2013-12-13

 
Prof Leon van Rensburg

The university’s advancement of research excellence recently found further embodiment in Prof Leon van Rensburg from the Department of Soil- and Crop- and Climate Sciences. His expertise in the water sector resulted in award-winning research.

Prof Van Rensburg received the award for Sustainable Development Solutions 2013 at the Water Research Commission (WRC) Symposium held at the CSIR in Pretoria. The symposium acknowledged local scientific solutions that have had a global impact. Prof Van Rensburg was recognised for his outstanding research guiding the management of salinity under irrigation at farm level in South Africa – ensuring food production. The paper that earned him this honour is entitled “Rainwater harvesting and conservation practices: challenges and opportunities for sustainable land and water use of ‘The Green Village’ in arid to semi-arid climate zones.”

The awards were linked to the WRC’s newly-adopted corporate planning tool named the ‘Knowledge Tree’, guiding the commission’s operations. The ‘Knowledge Tree’ functions as a yardstick with which the WRC measures its impact in essential areas. The presentation of these accolades underscored the importance of water science and water technology in improving the daily reality of people at grassroots level.

Prof Van Rensburg’s research goal is to enhance the efficiency of water usage of crop production systems in both the dryland and irrigation sectors. Part of his latest achievements include being editor for a special edition of the Irrigation and Drainage Journal (2012; vol 61) on rainwater harvesting.

Prof Chris du Preez, co-author of the winning paper, is an expert on soil quality, especially organic matter. He serves as the Head of the Department of Soil, Crop and Climate Sciences and has also acted as President of the Soil Science Society of South Africa. His current research focuses on agricultural land use and soil organic matter changes, soil fertility and fertilisation, and agriculture water quality and usage.

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