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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

SA-YSSP scholars attend high level colloquium with policy makers and research stakeholders
2014-02-12

From the left are: Prof Frans Swanepoel, Deputy-Director of the African Doctoral Academy, Drs Aldo Stroebel, Executive Director: International Relations and Cooperation at the National Research Foundation, Priscilla Mensah, co-director of the SA-YSSP, and Ulf Dieckmann from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and Dean of the SA-YSSP.
Photo: Renè-Jean van den Berg

Scholars taking part in the 2nd Southern African Young Scientists Summer Programme (SA-YSSP), attended a one-week seminar hosted by the African Doctoral Academy at the Stellenbosch University, which concluded with a colloquium at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study.

This was part of the final leg of their three-month stay and studies at the University of the Free State.

This seminar was a capacity development intervention with the purpose of equipping SA-YSSP young scholars with the skills to communicate their research work effectively with different audiences.

The 36 scholars were hand-picked from some of the world’s most promising and top researchers to take part in the novel three-month programme for advanced doctoral candidates. Their research interests closely aligned with the Department of Science and Technology’s (DST) grand challenges and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis’ (IIASA) current research programmes regarding global environmental, economic and social change.

The SA-YSSP is an initiative that contributes to the establishment, growth and enhancement of high-level strategic networks internationally. At the same time it develops capacity in systems analysis at the PhD and supervisory levels through research conducted in the areas of the Department of Science and Technology’s (DST) grand challenges.

At the colloquium, students were expected to showcase their work and research according to their various fields of expertise. High-profile policy makers and policy funders, as well as academia and fellow researchers judged and critiqued the work.

Dr Priscilla Mensah from the UFS and co-director of the programme, says it is important for the young scientists to frame their findings in a way that will be relevant to policy makers and the public at large.

“The partnership with the African Doctoral Academy was crucial in this regard since it is a capacity development entity aimed at strengthening and advancing doctoral education, training and scholarship on the African continent. The objective of this week-long capacity strengthening intervention is to equip the young scientists to be able to communicate their research effectively with different audiences, including potential funders and policy makers.

“I am convinced that the young scientists will no longer view policy makers as abstract entities, but as stakeholders who must be engaged to facilitate implementation of evidence-based policy.”

Dr Aldo Stroebel, Executive Director: International Relations and Cooperation, National Research Foundation, says the purpose of the colloquium is to bring together different sectors in one room to look at different challenges holistically, with an emphasis on systems analysis for a common goal.

The SA-YSSP forms part of an annual three-month education, academic training and research capacity-building programme jointly organised by IIASA, based in Austria, the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the DST. IIASA is an international research organisation that conducts policy-oriented scientific research in the three global problem areas of energy and climate change, food and water, and poverty and equity. South Africa’s engagements with IIASA, specifically with regard to the SA-YSSP, relate primarily to the DST’s Ten-Year Innovation Plan.

The UFS is the first institution outside Austria to host the summer programme. Researchers in the programme are, among others, from South Africa and the rest of the African continent, the USA, the Netherlands, India, Hungary, Austria and Germany.

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