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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.


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Moving towards creating a more accessible UFS for mobility-impaired students
2015-07-21


Centre for Universal Access and Disability Support’s logo for persons with mobility impairments.
Design: Karoo Republic


Hi, my name is Jackson, and I am a wheelchair user following an accident that left me paralysed.

We often take for granted the ability to navigate obstacles, and to move readily from place to place. Few people have to worry about mobility on campus, but for students with mobility impairments, it presents many challenges that few of us are aware of.

 

The biggest struggle for students with mobility impairments is often encountered in the lecture room/hall. Once they arrive at the class (often struggling to get there on time), their next challenge might be entering the classroom and finding a suitable place where they can sit comfortably. As it is, there are only a few loose tables in most lecture halls. Consequently, the students have to sit through the lecture taking notes and working with their laptops resting on their laps. Obviously, this is uncomfortable and not conducive to their learning process.

 

When students have limited hand function, the result is that they write more slowly and with difficulty. However, the UFS does offer assistance from scribes, adapted computer hardware/software, assistive devices, and/or modified furniture. Such adaptations can be arranged by the Centre for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS), which boasts an official test and examination venue where students with mobility impairments can proceed with their tests and exams if they prefer.

 

Students with Cerebral Palsy may experience difficulties with quick, sudden physical movements, and delayed processing of information. Stressful circumstances can result in their experiencing difficulty when having to write or process information quickly enough during test and examination situations. The Extra Time Panel, in collaboration with Student Counselling and Development, determines the time concession for those students with mobility impairments who have such needs.  

 

The importance of accessible parking spaces exclusively designated for wheelchair users not only involves such places being closer to a building entrance but also wide enough for a wheelchair user to get in and out of a vehicle safely.

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