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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

Dr Mercy Oduyoye receives an honorary doctorate for changing how women are viewed in theology
2015-07-08

Dr Mercy Oduyoye.
Photo: Johan Roux

Dr Mercy Amba Oduyoye received an honorary degree from the UFS Faculty of Theology in acknowledgement of the trailblazing work she has done in the field of African women’s theology. Known as the Mother of African Women’s Theology, Dr Oduyoye is the first black woman in Africa to have received a degree in theology. Ever since then, she has been changing views on gender in theology across the globe. Still at the office at the age of 82, Dr Oduyoye’s life work has centred on two areas: her work with churches, and her work with female theologians.

Women in religion and culture
Following the 2015 Winter Graduation Ceremony on the Bloemfontein Campus, during which Dr Oduyoye received her honorary degree from the University of the Free State (UFS), she presented a lecture on women in religion and culture at the Faculty of Theology. Dr Oduyoye gave a brief overview of her involvement in organisations since the early 1970s to eliminate patriarchal structures in theology, in order to produce a relationship of partnership between women and men. An area that lies especially close to Dr Oduyoye’s heart is that of storytelling, and the use of language. Therefore, a driving force behind her work has been the question: “How do we communicate what we believe as Christians?”

Writing in a way people can understand

This question led Dr Oduyoye on her journey to vernacularise theological language, and it became her mode of writing. “Very seldom will you find the classical or official theological language in my writing, because I’m writing as if I’m speaking to a youth group, a women’s group – or even my grandmother.” In this way, communication became her focal point to present Christianity in such a way that people can understand it, thus rendering it relevant to the situation in Africa.

Changes toward inclusive language
Dr Oduyoye has gone on to author four books and over eighty articles on theology from a feminist perspective. And after toiling for many years, Dr Oduyoye can now see the changes emerging – especially in the US – as Bibles, lectionaries, and hymns are increasingly adopting an inclusive language, giving women a presence and voice within the church.

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