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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.


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NASA Deep Space Navigation engineer presents at Naval Hill Planetarium
2017-03-30

Description: NASA Deep Space Navigation engineer  Tags: NASA Deep Space Navigation engineer

From the left: Chris du Plessis; US Consulate, Johannesburg,
Prof Petrus Meintjes; Dept of Physics UFS, Christopher Jacobs;
NASA, and Anthony Deaton; US Consulate Johannesburg.
Photo: Rulanzen Martin

The University of the Free State (UFS) hosted NASA Deep Space engineer Christopher Jacobs on 27 March 2017 at the Bloemfontein Campus. The engagement was hosted by Prof Matie Hoffman of the Department of Physics and the Department of Institutional Advancement, in collaboration with the US Consulate General in Johannesburg.

Jacobs is stationed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology and has served as the Reference Frame Calibration task manager for 25 years. In this role he has been responsible for delivering the reference frames used to navigate NASA missions such as the Mars Science Laboratory to planetary targets.

His visit to the UFS included a presentation to the Department of Astrophysics at the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and at the Naval Hill Planetarium in Bloemfontein where he spoke on Stellar GPS: Navigating the Solar System. He also spoke about the latest research and developments at NASA in Astrometry. The visit will establish and develop shared interests and possible collaboration with UFS and other institutions of interest in the country. “South Africa, because of its well-placed geographic location in the southern hemisphere, holds a lot of answers to astronomy,” Jacobs said.

He has an active interest in professional and public education, and outreach, having given public lectures around the world. “Astronomy brings people together and is a point of common interest that is key in solving environmental and geographical challenges such as climate change, therefore global cooperation is important,” he said.

Prof Hoffman welcomed the initiative by the US Consulate and the possible outcomes of joint efforts to position the UFS as a key partner in South Africa on NASA’s astronomy projects. In the coming weeks Jacobs will speak at high schools in Gauteng including the Mae Jemison US Science Reading Room in Mamelodi, Pretoria, a centre that is focused on promoting science education.

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