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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

Shack study holds research and social upliftment opportunities
2015-02-10

Photo: Stephen Collett

When Prof Basie Verster, retired head of the Department of Quantity Surveying at the University of the Free State (UFS), initiated an alternative form of housing for Johannes - one of his employees - a decision was made to base research on this initiative. This research project in Grasslands, Heidedal focused on the cost and energy efficiency of green and/or sustainable shacks.

Esti Jacobs from the Department of Quantity Surveying, together with an honours student in Quantity Surveying, a master’s student in Architecture, and young professionals at Verster Berry, helped with the project.

The physical goals of the project were to create a structure that is environmentally friendly, and maintains a comfortable interior climate in winter and summer, as well as being cost-effective to erect. The structure also had to be socially acceptable to the family and the community.

“The intention was to make a positive contribution to the community and to initiate social upliftment through this project. Structures such as the ‘green shack’ may serve as an intermediate step to future housing possibilities, since these structures are relatively primitive, but have economic value and could be marketable,” she said.

Esti explains the structure of the building, which consists of gum poles and South African pine bearers, with a timber roof and internal cement block flooring. The building is clad with corrugated iron and has a corrugated iron roof finish. Additional green elements added to the structure were internal Nutec cladding, glasswool insulation in walls, internal gypsum ceiling boards with ‘Think Pink’ insulation, internal dividing wall and door, polystyrene in the floors, and tint on the windows. A small solar panel for limited electricity use (one or two lights and electricity to charge a cellphone) and a Jojo water tank for household consumption by the inhabitants were also installed.

Esti said: “Phase one of the research has been completed. This phase consisted of an investigation into the cost of an alternative form of housing structure (comparing traditional shacks with the planned structure) as well as the construction process of the physical housing structure.

“Phase two of the research, commencing in February 2015, will last for two to three years. This phase will include the installation of temperature and relative humidity logging devices inside the existing traditional shack and the new green shack. The logs will be regularly monitored by the UFS Department of Quantity Surveying and Construction Management.

These data will enable the researchers to measure the differences in comfort levels inside the two different structures. The data, together with other information such as building materials and methods, are then processed by software programs. Through the simulation of different environments, building materials, and alternate forms of energy, software models can be used to come up with conclusions regarding more energy-friendly building materials and methods. This knowledge can be used to improve comfort levels within smaller, low-cost housing units.

The UFS will be working with Prof Jeff Ramsdell of the Appalachian State University in the USA and his team on the second phase of the project.

“This research project is ongoing and will be completed only in a few years’ time,” said Esti.

The results of the research will be published in accredited journals or at international conferences.

 

For more information or enquiries contact news@ufs.ac.za.

 

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