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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

Staff experience running in the shoes of students
2014-07-29


Photo: Sonia Small

From having to upload money on a card and buying lunch at Thakaneng Bridge to naming the SRC members, some UFS staff members got to experience life as a full-time student on our Bloemfontein Campus.

During their 2014 Purpose Summit on 22 July, staff from Student Affairs competed against each other in an Amazing Race.

“We got to see how students actually run around on campus each day,” said Elize Rall from Residence Life. “We always hear from parents how their children have to go from one place on campus to the other to get things done … and now we know what they are talking about.”

Staff who attended the summit was divided into teams during the morning’s practical session. Similar to the popular television programme, The Amazing Race, there were quite a few checkpoints – often with some formidable challenges and quizzes.

To make their tasks even more difficult, the participants were forced to take the route students with disabilities would have taken. This means: no stairs could be climbed and no curbs could be jumped – they could only use ramps and elevators.

"The experience was extra-ordinary," said Lerato Masapo from Residence Life. "I learned a lot and I didn't realise how difficult it was for our disabled students to move around the campus.

"What struck me the most was the distance between every building and how far the students had to walk to reach certain places. This made me realise the importance and responsibility on us as staff members to know our environment and assist students accordingly in that regard."

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