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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

UFS attracts excellent and diverse students
2015-08-20


Matshediso Mokoena and Thato Monkoe.
Photo: Thabo Kessah

When Thato Monkoe and Matshediso Mokoena sat for their final matric examinations in 2014, all they had on their minds was not just passing, but passing well. Little did they know at that time that passing well would place so much responsibility on their shoulders.

 

Both Thato and Matshediso come from rural and disadvantaged backgrounds. They are first-year students at the Qwaqwa Campus of the University of the Free State, and are the first in their respective families to study at a university.

 

Thato describes his situation as “sad and good at the same time”.

 

“It is good, because I am the first one at home to have completed my matric and to have gone on to study at a tertiary institution. At the same time, it is sad as I feel sorry for my siblings who, for various reasons, did not have similar opportunities when they opted out of school”, said Thato, a BEd student.

 

”Now my sister and brother, as well as the entire family, perceive me as the one with brains, and this makes me uncomfortable. However, I am up for the challenge to be the first one to graduate with a degree in my family”.

 

Matshediso Mokoena, a BSc student, who obtained distinctions in Mathematics, Physical Sciences, and Life Sciences last year, concurs with Thato.

 

”As much as my family is supportive, there is always pressure as they expect the best from me,” she said.

 

“The pressure does not only come from my family. My entire community looks up to me, and they can’t stop talking about my achievements”, Matshediso revealed.

 

Both Thato and Matshediso are, however, happy that the dark cloud of doubt about academic achievement in their families has finally disappeared.

 

“At least someone in my family is hard at work carving her future, and willing to set a good example. That person is me”, said Matshediso, who aspires to be a medical doctor, and has a younger sister in Grade 8.

 

Thato and Matshediso are just two of hundreds of students making good use of the University of the Free State’s commitment to attract excellent and diverse students at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, as reflected in the Strategic Plan 2015-2020.


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