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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

New SADC Groundwater Management Institute will strengthen UFS footprint in Africa
2015-07-30

Prof Danie Vermeulen
Photo: Anja Aucamp

The new SADC Groundwater Management Institute (SADC GMI) will be fully operational in 2016, says Prof Danie Vermeulen, Head of the Institute for Groundwater Studies (IGS) at the University of the Free State.

The SADC GMI will have its offices in the IGS building on the Bloemfontein Campus. The UFS will be responsible for the financial side of the operation. The IGS, SADC member states, and the World Bank are co-operating on this project, which will build sustainable groundwater management across regional borders.  Universities in the region tendered for the project, but the proposal by the IGS towered above the rest, Prof Vermeulen says.

The SADC GMI will strengthen the capacity of institutions to establish sustainable groundwater management. It will promote the management and development of groundwater infrastructures, and advance knowledge about national and trans-boundary groundwater. With the establishment of the new institute, research will be conducted, knowledge shared, and capacity built.

Prof Vermeulen says research has shown that groundwater is a primary source of water for more than 70% of the 250 million people in the drought-prone SADC region. The rapid expansion of commercial farming and industry is putting great pressure on water resources; 67% of all water is used in agriculture.

The new institute is an important instrument for the UFS to strengthen its footprint in Africa.  “The SADC GMI is about distributing knowledge across the SADC region. It is important for the UFS to extend into Africa. The official collaboration between the UFS, the World Bank, and the SADC countries enables us to reach the goal,” Prof Vermeulen says.

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