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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

NRF researcher addresses racial debates in classrooms
2017-03-24

Description: Dr Marthinus Conradie Tags: Dr Marthinus Conradie

Dr Marthinus Conradie, senior lecturer in the
Department of English, is one of 31 newly-rated National
Research Foundation researchers at the University of
the Free State.
Photo: Rulanzen Martin

Exploring numerous norms and assumptions that impede the investigation of racism and racial inequalities in university classrooms, was central to the scope of the research conducted by Dr Marthinus Conradie, a newly Y-rated National Research Foundation (NRF) researcher.

Support from various colleagues
He is one of 31 newly-rated researchers at the University of the Free State (UFS) and joins the 150 plus researchers at the university who have been rated by the NRF. Dr Conradie specialises in sociolinguistics and cultural studies in the UFS Department of English. “Most of the publications that earned the NRF rating are aimed to contributing a critical race theoretic angle to longstanding debates about how questions surrounding race and racism are raised in classroom contexts,” he said.

Dr Conradie says he is grateful for the support from his colleagues in the Department of English, as well as other members of the Faculty of the Humanities. “Although the NRF rating is assigned to a single person, it is undoubtedly the result of support from a wide range of colleagues, including co-authors Dr Susan Brokensha, Prof Angelique van Niekerk, and Dr Mariza Brooks, as well as our Head of Department, Prof Helene Strauss,” he said.

Should debate be free of emotion?
His ongoing research has not been assigned a title yet, as he and his co-author does not assign titles prior to drafting the final manuscript. “Most, but not all, of the publications included in my application to the NRF draw from discourse analysis of a Foucauldian branch, including discursive psychology,” Dr Conradie says. His research aims to suggest directions and methods for exploring issues about race, racism, and racial equality relating to classroom debates. One thread of this body of work deals with the assumption that classroom debates must exclude emotions. Squandering opportunities to investigate the nature and sources of the emotions provoked by critical literature, might obstruct the discussion of personal histories and experiences of discrimination. “Equally, the demand that educators should control conversations to avoid discomfort might prevent in-depth treatment of broader, structural inequalities that go beyond individual prejudice,” Dr Conradie said. A second stream of research speaks to media representations and cultural capital in advertising discourse. A key example examines the way art from European and American origins are used to imbue commercial brands with connotations of excellence and exclusivity, while references to Africa serve to invoke colonial images of unspoiled landscapes.

A hope to inspire further research
Dr Conradie is hopeful that fellow academics will refine and/or alter the methods he employed, and that they will expand, reinterpret, and challenge his findings with increasing relevance to contemporary concerns, such as the drive towards decolonisation. “When I initially launched the research project (with significant aid from highly accomplished co-authors), the catalogue of existing scholarly works lacked investigations along the particular avenues I aimed to address.”

Dr Conradie said that his future research projects will be shaped by the scholarly and wider social influences he looks to as signposts and from which he hopes to gain guidelines about specific issues in the South African society to which he can make a fruitful contribution.

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