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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 consortium to discuss broadening subcontinent’s food base
2017-03-14

Description: Cactus Tags: Cactus

The Steering Committee of the Collaborative
Consortium for Broadening the Food Base comprises,
from the left: Prof Wijnand Swart (UFS),
Dr Sonja Venter (ARC) and Dr Eric Amonsou (DUT).
Photo: Andrè Grobler

There is huge pressure on the agricultural industry in southern Africa to avert growing food insecurity. One of the ways to address this is to broaden the food base on the subcontinent via crop production. Climate change, urbanisation, population growth, pests and diseases continually hamper efforts to alleviate food insecurity. Furthermore, our dependence on a few staple crops such as maize, wheat, potatoes, and sunflower, serve to exacerbate food insecurity.  

Broadening the food base  
To address broadening the food base in southern Africa, scientists from the University of the Free State (UFS), the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) have formed a Collaborative Consortium for the development of underutilised crops by focusing on certain indigenous and exotic crops. The Consortium met at the UFS this week for two days (6, 7 March 2017) to present and discuss their research results. The Principal Investigator of the Consortium, Prof Wijnand Swart of the Department of Plant Sciences in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, said awareness had risen for the need to rescue and improve the use of orphan crops that were up to now, for the most part, left aside by research, technological development, and marketing systems.  

"Many indigenous southern African
plant grains, vegetables and tubers
have the potential to provide a variety
of diets and broaden the household
food base.”

Traditional crops Generally referred to as alternative, traditional or niche crops, five crops are being targeted by the Consortium, namely, two grain legumes, (Bambara groundnut and cowpea), amaranthus (leaf vegetable), cactus pear or prickly pear and amadumbe (a potato-like tuber). Swart said these five crops would play an important role in addressing the food and agricultural challenges of the future. “Many indigenous southern African plant grains, vegetables and tubers have the potential to provide a variety of diets and broaden the household food base.” The potential of the many so-called underutilised crops lies not only in their hardiness and nutritional value but in their versatility of utilisation. "It may be that they contain nutrients that can be explored to meet the demand for functional foods," said Swart.

Scientific institutions working together
The Collaborative Consortium between the three scientific institutions is conducting multi-disciplinary research to develop crop value chains for the five underutilised crops mentioned above. The UFS and ARC are mainly involved in looking at production technologies for managing crop environments and genetic technologies for crop improvement. The DUT is focusing on innovative products development and market development.  

 

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