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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

Small things matter
2017-01-17

 Description: Prof Felicity Burt  Tags: Prof Felicity Burt

Prof Felicity Burt (right) and Dr Dominique Goedhals
from the Department of Medical Microbiology and
Virology at the University of the Free State.
Photo: Anja Aucamp



The newly established virology section at the University of the Free State (UFS) boasts world class expertise. Not only are they one of just five laboratories in the country tasked with specialised HIV testing, but current research generates publications and subsidised funding.

The driving force behind this initiative is passionate and dedicated people who invest long hours into vital research. One such person is Prof Felicity Burt, who eloquently guides her students while making impressive progress within her own field of interest: vector-borne and zoonotic diseases. Prof Burt was recently awarded a research chair (2016-2020) to, among other areas, investigate medically significant vector-borne and zoonotic viruses currently circulating.

That means that her research focus is mainly on viruses transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks, and viruses transmitted from animals to humans. “Yes,” she laughs, “I catch mosquitoes and check them for viruses.”

Becoming familiar with different viruses
As if big screen moments like Outbreak and Contagion did not create enough virus paranoia, the world was recently bombarded by real world Ebola and Zika outbreaks. But awareness, Prof Burt says, is not a bad thing. “Years ago, when people heard that I did Ebola research, they got that distant look in their eyes, and changed the subject. One outbreak later, backed by many media reports, and Ebola is almost a household name. The same goes for the recent Zika virus outbreak in South America.”

The more familiar people become with these types of viruses, the better, Prof Burt feels. However, getting the right message across is not always that easy. The Zika virus outbreak, for example, was a very large outbreak and therefore presented large numbers of affected people. Generally, not everyone infected with an arbovirus will necessarily present with symptoms. But because vector-borne viruses can spread to new areas, surveillance and awareness is important. Here in Bloemfontein, Prof Burt and her team are establishing surveillance programmes.

Gaining knowledge and preventative measures
So, next time you get all wound up about a “biological disaster”, rest assured that competent people like Prof Burt and her colleagues continuously scan the environment to gain knowledge and develop preventive measures should any risks be looming. For example, developing next-generation vaccines that are very effective, but without risk – since they are not built on the virus itself, but only on the part of the virus that will induce an immune response.

Currently, Prof Burt is also looking into the relationship between the Sindbis virus and arthritis. It is clear that we can expect many exciting findings from the UFS’s new virology unit.

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