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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

Visiting Professor, Piet Bracke, Speaks on Public Mental Health
2015-02-20

Piet Bracke

Professor in the Department of Sociology at the Ghent University in Belgium, Piet Bracke, recently visited the UFS to speak about his research on the Public mental health and comparative health research: between social theory and psychiatric epidemiology.

At the public lecture on Monday 16 February, Bracke stated that part of the sociological attention to mental health and well-being was rooted in the 19th century's romanticists' discontent with self and society. The classical and contemporary social theorists' views on the disconnection between culture and the ‘real’ self resembles the more recent evolutionary psychological assumptions about the maladaptation of  psychobiological mechanisms to contemporary societal arrangements.

In contrast to these perspectives, contemporary psychiatric epidemiological research has a strongly underdeveloped conception about the nexus between society and population mental health. Both perspectives, the social-theory-and-societal-discontent approach and the biomedical psychiatric epidemiological approach, have drawbacks. Starting from the pitfalls of the aforementioned perspectives, they have been exploring the challenges posed by the development of a macro-sociology of population mental health.

Recently, this research domain has received renewed attention of scholars inside as well as outside sociology. The rise of multi-country, multilevel datasets containing health-related information, as well as the growing attention on the fundamental social causes of health and illness, and the focus on population as opposed to individual health, has contributed to the revival of comparative public mental health research. Based on findings from their recent research, they have illustrated how taking the context into account is vital when exploring the social roots of mental health and illness. In addition, they have demonstrated how they can liberate a few so-called ‘control variables’ in risk factor epidemiology – e.g. gender, education, and age – from their suppressed status by linking them to core concepts of sociology. With their research, they hope to further the development of a macro-sociology of public mental health.

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