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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

Artistic development at UFS to transform the face of Bloemfontein creatively
2015-07-02

The 7-metre high ‘Urban Fox’ is one of Alex Rinsler's artworks adding a fragment of the wild to the city of Shanghai in China.

Bold, bright, and beautiful public art sculptures are in the inception phase at the university’s Bloemfontein Campus. Manchester-based public artist, Alex Rinsler, of the Programme for Innovation in Artform Development (PIAD)’s forum for artist development, is to install three enthralling sculptures in the city of Bloemfontein.

The PIAD forum for artist development is an initiative of the Vrystaat Arts Festival, formerly known as the Vryfees, which aims to celebrate art in the Free State by hosting experimental art practices. In its capacity as a PIAD partner, the University of the Free State promotes increased access to, and participation in, culture as a form of human development.

Presenting an artist’s talk titled ‘Urban Safari: Art in public space,’ on the Bloemfontein Campus recently Rinsler introduced himself and his creative ideas to students, staff, and the public at the Johannes Stegman Art Gallery. The talk served as an invitation to the active participation of Bloemfontein citizens in all phases leading to the installations. Dispersed across the Mangaung Metropolitan, the giant sculptures are intended to capture and reflect different aspects of the community’s lived experiences. 

As a public artist based in the United Kingdom (UK), Rinsler has exhibited in cities nationally and internationally, with the intention of bringing a touch of the wild to urban lives. His vision is to witness the development of cities into cultural boulevards, and explore “what we can do to bring back the sense of nature, the wild” by adding new symbolism to urban lifestyle.

“I believe in creating work accessible to the public, which stimulates conversation,” said the Clore Leadership Programme Fellow (University of Manchester) and Founder of Pirate Technics - an artistic practice company.

In 2012, he worked with 31 Master’s students from 24 countries on an icon for global peace named “Under the Baobab” in London. The colourful and magnificent Baobab tree made from pieces of fabric representing distinct cultures told the story of migration to London.

Rinsler is determined that the Bloemfontein “project, similar to the London installation, will create imagery that people will remember.”

Dr Ricardo Peach, Director of the Vrystaat Arts Festival and PIAD, hopes the project fosters diversity while producing a “communal cultural product." 

“What I know about Alex’s work is that he will be working with what he calls a self-selected community, people who are interested in this, and who want to work together to build these sculptures, as part as a process for them to get a sense of where they belong, and their input into the city. It’s about people telling their own stories.”

The public installations are a way of transforming the landscape, and connecting people of “a place like Bloemfontein where communities are often still so divided,” said Peach.

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