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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

Mellon Foundation awards R10 million research grant to Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies
2015-02-20

Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Senior Research Professor in Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation Studies, and Dr Saleem Badat, Programme Director at the Mellon Foundation.
Photo: Johan Roux

Through her profound insight, vast experience, and unfaltering belief in humanity, Prof Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, has secured a R10 million grant from one of the world’s most prestigious foundations funding human sciences research.

“This is one of the biggest grants that the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded to a university”, said Dr Saleem Badat, Program Director: International Higher Education and Strategic Projects at the Mellon Foundation. Prof Badat attended the press event that took place on 16 February 2015 on our Bloemfontein Campus.

UFS Trauma, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation Studies, spearheaded by Prof Gobodo-Madikizela, will manage the research project.

Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, expressed great excitement “about this particular grant and the subject on which it focuses is so incredibly timely and germane to our own situation.”

Trauma, Memory and Representations of the Past: Transforming Scholarship in the Humanities and Arts

This new-found partnership between the Mellon Foundation and the UFS will enable a five-year research programme. The focus area of this initiative will be ‘Trauma, Memory and Representations of the Past: Transforming Scholarship in the Humanities and Arts’.

The research will pivot specifically around the question of how trauma is transmitted from one generation to the next. “South Africa lends itself to these questions,” Prof Gobodo-Madikizela said, “because we are now dealing with a generation of young people who were born after the traumas of the past.” These past experiences, though, are “passed on to the younger generation and become their own stories and narratives as if they themselves experienced the traumas directly.”

“This is an investment in how we can in fact create a different kind of community,” Prof Jansen said, “in which we eventually recognise each other – not by the accident of our skin, but by that elusive sense of a common humanity.”

Arts and theatre

Other aspects critical to this study are the inclusion of the arts and theatre. Many people have great difficulty in expressing their experiences of trauma in the spoken word. The arts and theatre provide an ideal platform to engage the public and stimulate conversation. As an example of the power these platforms possess, Prof Gobodo-Madikizela highlighted the success of the Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery – situated on the Bloemfontein Campus and curated by Angela de Jesus – in engaging the public in very productive ways.

Participants

Some of the artists, directors and scholars who will join in this project include:

• Lara Foot-Newton, Director/Playwright
• Sue Williamson, Activist Artist
• Angela de Jesus, Visual Artist/Curator
• Dr Buhle Zuma, Social Psychology Research
• Dr Shose Khessi, Social Psychology Research
• Prof Tamara Shefer, Women’s and Gender Studies
• Prof Kopano Ratele, Gender/Men and Masculinities
• Prof Jan Coetzee, Sociology of Developing Societies
• Prof Helene Strauss, Literary and Cultural Studies

New intellectual frontiers

“There is an aspiration in this proposal,” Dr Saleem Badat said. “We were born through this pain of colonialism and apartheid; we even went through the TRC. Our scholars in this country, our universities, should be at the forefront of this research. This is not research we can leave to the institutions in the north.”

Prof Gobodo-Madikizela agreed. “The overarching theme of this work is new knowledge production, focusing on the experiences in South Africa as experiences that can teach us something new.”

This will serve not only South Africa, but can also establish support for, and inform, countries facing similar dilemmas. In fact, “any part of the world in which genocide and murder and racism remains as legacies from the past,” Dr Badat said.

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