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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 hosts first SA Digital Sky Academy at the Naval Hill Planetarium
2015-10-02


From the left are: Prof Neil Heideman
(Dean: Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, UFS),
Jack White (Director: Sky-Skan Oceania),
Dr Michelle Cluver (Department of Astronomy, University of the Western Cape),
Martin Ratcliffe (Director: Professional Development, Sky-Skan).
Photo: Mart-Mari Duvenhage

South Africa hosts some of the world’s largest telescopes, and won the bid to co-host the SKA recently. So it’s not surprising that there is unprecedented interest in Astronomy in our country. Astronomy is seen as a gateway subject that attracts people to the sciences, while planetariums help to make Astronomy accessible to millions of people.  Digital planetariums are especially powerful teaching tools because they are versatile, offer an immersive experience, and explain and illustrate three-dimensional concepts effectively.  On the other hand, scientists, are eager to exploit a digital planetarium’s potential to represent and explore data visually, whether the data relate to medicine, astronomy, chemistry, the environment, or other fields of research.

The four-day ‘Digital Sky Academy’ (DSA) presented at the Naval Hill Planetarium in Bloemfontein from 18 - 22 September 2015 was an opportunity to offer training and first-hand experience of digital planetarium technology to representatives from other centres in South Africa. The Department of Physics at the University of the Free State (UFS) was the host of this event.

The Department of Science and Technology has designated the Naval Hill Planetarium as the South African hub for the training of digital planetarium presenters and operators. In addition to attracting interest from scientists and future planetarium operators and presenters, the DSA workshop provided an invaluable opportunity for our presenters to hone their skills.

A number of experienced and distinguished people attended the workshop. Among them was Dr Mark SubbaRao from Chicago in the United States, who shared information on data visualisation techniques used in the Adler Planetarium. Jack White, Director of Sky-Skan, one of the few companies that provide digital technology for planetariums throughout the world, coordinated the event in partnership with Prof Matie Hoffman from the Department of Physics at the UFS.

Jack travelled from Melbourne in Australia to oversee the workshop. Two Sky-Skan colleagues from the United States, Martin Weiss and Martin Ratcliffe, were on hand to share their expertise on digital planetarium hardware and software. The workshop programme included Skype conference calls with other US-based planetarium experts. Amongst the delegates to the DSA representatives from the SKA, the Iziko Museum, and five South Africa universities. They were here to gain experience, explore the capacity of the digital facility, and share ideas on future collaboration.

During the workshop, a public lecture was held on 19 September. Dr Michelle Cluver from the University of the Western Cape gave a presentation entitled, ‘More than the eye can see: the significance of infrared light in Astronomy.’

 

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