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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

Food insecurity at university campuses under the spotlight
2015-08-20

 

"Food insecurity is   becoming an increasing problem at South African universities, much to the surprise of university managers." - Dr Louise van den Bergh, senior lecturer and researcher at our department of Nutrition and Dietetics

More than 70% of early university dropouts in the country were forced to abandon their tertiary studies because of food insecurity and financial need.

This was one of the conclusions drawn during the first higher education colloquium on food insecurity. The colloquium was hosted on by the University of the Free State (UFS) on the Bloemfontein Campus on 14 August 2015, where researchers from universities across the country shared their research about food insecurity on university campuses.

In South Africa, university campuses are not usually associated with food insecurity but, over the last few years, tertiary education has become more accessible to an increasing number of first-generation students and students from low-income households.

Some of the research indicated that students from lower-income households are often lacking financially, even with bursaries. The research has also shown that students frequently have to use part of their bursary money to support their families. This results in students not having enough money to buy food, which means they will do almost anything to get food.

A study by the UFS Department of Nutrition and Dietetics found that as many as 60% of our students are food insecure, and experience hunger frequently. This study was the first of its kind in South Africa. In 2011, the UFS launched the No Student Hungry Bursary Programme to provide food bursaries to food-insecure students.

At the opening of the colloquium, Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, said by helping students with a basic commodity like food, you give them much more than food; you give them humanity and dignity.

Dr Louise van den Bergh, senior lecturer and researcher in the UFS Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, explains that the problem is considerably more complex than just providing for students financially.

Dr Van den Bergh says that funders need to reassess bursaries, keeping issues such as food insecurity in mind, and not focusing just on tuition.

Research presented at the colloquium: (PDF's van die slides)

UFS Food environment and nutritional practices

UFS Skeleton in the University closet

UKZN Achieving food security

UKZN Food security and academic performance

UKZN Hunger for knowledge

UKZN Perceptions of food insecurity complexities

UW Food acquisition struggles

 

 

 

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