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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

Researchers receive study grant for research into Congo Fever
2015-03-10

UFS researchers will be contributing significantly to the search for a vaccine against the deadly tick-borne disease known as Congo Fever.

Prof Felicity Burt from the Department of Medical Microbiology and Virology was recently awarded a research grant by the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) to study candidate vaccines for Crimean-Congo heamorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus and other arboviruses.

Arboviruses are viruses transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks, or other arthropods.

Prof Burt is an internationally-recognised expert on the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF). The Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus is a tick-borne virus that is associated with severe haemorrhagic disease in South Africa and other parts of Africa, Asia, and eastern Europe. Her interests focus on medically significant viruses that are transmitted by ticks and mosquitoes. Her research group is involved in determining the immune responses that are induced by different viral proteins.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus, a tick- borne virus found in Africa, Asia, the Balkans, and eastern Europe, causes severe viral haemorrhagic fever outbreaks.

Although a number of tick species are capable of becoming infected with CCHF virus, ticks of the genus Hyalomma, commonly referred to in SA as the “bont-legged ticks”, are the principal vector. The ticks have distinctive brown and white bands on their legs.

In February 1981, the first case of CCHF was recognised in South Africa (SA). To date, there have been nearly 200 cases of CCHF infection in SA with a 20% fatality rate. The majority of cases occurring in SA were in patients from the Northern Cape and Free State provinces.

“The funding that has been awarded will be used to profile immune responses against CCHF viral proteins, and investigate mechanisms and strategies to enhance these immune responses. We hope that the study will contribute knowledge towards the development of a vaccine against this medically significant virus.”

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

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