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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 professor receives international recognition for exceptional ethical values
2015-10-02

“You grow so fond of them,” Prof André Venter,
Head: Department of Paediatrics and Child Health,
says while doing his rounds with patients.
Prof Venter recently received the award for health professions
from the international organisation, Unashamedly Ethical.

“You are such a pretty baby,” Prof André Venter, Head: Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of the Free State, whispers to a baby lying stretched out in her neonatal cradle.

He uses his fingertips to free her legs and arms carefully from the monitors and wires attached to her.

“See how much you have grown,” he says, tapping with his finger on her file. 1.2 kg - her weight indicates. 

In one of the other children’s wards, he joins a mother sitting with her sick baby. Speaking about the baby’s operation coming up within the next few months, he gives her an encouraging pat on the shoulder.

He visits yet another mother who is practising kangaroo care on her baby, and asks to hold the baby for a while.

“Gosh, you’re so nice and warm, let doctor hold you for a while,” he says, hugging the premature baby to his chest.

Prof Venter greets and thanks the nursing staff at the end of his ward rounds.

“Everything is not always good, but one can try to plan for the future from the challenges,” he says. “One should never concentrate on the immediate problem too much, but lift the morale of those using our services, those providing the services, and those who come here for training.”

It is this kind of passion and outlook that earned Prof Venter an ethical award from the international organisation, Unashamedly Ethical. The award, which was made in the health professions category, recognises doctors for exceptional ethical values and for going the extra mile in alleviating the suffering of humanity.

“I am humbled at being honoured for something I see as my passion and actually take for granted. I am also touched that people from outside noticed and nominated me for this,” he says.

He talks about his young patients again: “I learn so much from them each day. Children are so resistant to negative things. I grow so fond of them that I forget they have to go home some time.”

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