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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

Study on school violence shows the secondary school environment compels learners to be armed
2015-01-26

The secondary school environment apparently compels learners to come to school armed. This is according to a study done by Dr Lynette Jacobs, a lecturer at the School of Education Studies at the University of the Free State.

In her study, Dr Jacobs found that learners from more affluent schools carry noticeably more weapons than learners in less affluent schools. Learners in the lower grades of secondary schools also use and carry more weapons than learners in the higher grades.

Dr Jacobs says while many reasons for school violence can be noted, such as to forcibly take the victims money and food, racial differences, religious differences, as well as the immigrant status of one of the parties involved, these were reasons indicated by less than 10% of the participants in the study.

“There is no single explanation for the threat of violence at schools and most acts of school violence appear to happen randomly, often out of instant retaliation.”

For the study, Dr Jacobs did surveys at schools across three provinces in South Africa.

“Although it varies in levels of seriousness, incidences of physical violence and verbal cruelty consistently occur at South Africans schools. I found that learners are furthermore regularly mocked, insulted, cursed and humiliated by peers.”

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