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UFS committed to transformation
2005-02-23

UFS committed to transformation

The management of the University of the Free State (UFS) takes note that plans are being made to stage a student protest at the UFS main campus on Monday 28 February 2005 .

This is in line with a concerted national campaign to highlight the issue of transformation at higher education institutions.

At this stage the UFS management has not received any application from student formations to stage such a protest at the main campus in Bloemfontein .

The UFS upholds the right of all staff and students to hold legal, non-violent protests and in this spirit encourages the student formations to apply for permission to hold their protest. However, the UFS management has been - and always will be willing to discuss the important issue of transformation of the UFS with staff unions and student formations.

Again the UFS management appeals to student formations to make use of this open door policy and not to adopt a confrontational position. In fact the management and the Senate of the UFS have come out in support of a new phase of transformation at the UFS.

In his speech at the official opening of the UFS earlier this month (on 4 February 2005 ), the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Frederick Fourie, announced that a comprehensive transformation plan for would be drafted for the UFS.

This Transformation Plan would address issues such as:

  • a new institutional culture for the UFS
  • the need for representivity in the staffing of the UFS
  • ensuring relevance of curricula for the South African and African context
  • enhancing excellence in the overall academic life of the UFS
  • ensuring greater interaction among black and white students and staff
  • addressing outstanding issues in the incorporation of the Qwaqwa and Vista campuses, among others

Concerning some of the issues that are being put forward to motivate for a protest march, the UFS would like to highlight the following facts:

  1. The situation at the Qwaqwa campus
  • It is not true that the UFS has decided to close down the Qwaqwa campus. This is a complete falsehood. The campus was incorporated into the UFS in January 2003 and since then every effort is being made to ensure the viability of the Qwaqwa campus.
  • In fact the UFS has just upgraded residences at the Qwaqwa campus – to the tune of R6,8-million.
  • In addition, another R1,4-million has been set aside for the upgrading of other facilities on the Qwaqwa campus.
  • More staff has been appointed and the library is acquiring more books etc.
  • The management of the UFS wants to assure staff at the Qwaqwa campus once again that there has been no decision to close the campus.
  • We realise that the incorporation of the campus into the UFS has given rise to certain fears and concerns, but these are being addressed, including the question of reporting lines of staff and the further delegation of powers to the head of the Qwaqwa campus, Prof Peter Mbati.
  1. The situation at the Vista campus
  • A number of processes are currently under way to address outstanding issues following the formal incorporation of the Vista campus into the UFS in January 2004.
  • This includes the integration of former Vista staff into the UFS as well as the alignment of the conditions of service of the former Vista staff with the UFS conditions of service.
  • Indeed, over the last few weeks, a climate of trust has been developing and a number of meetings have taken place in contrast to the situation that obtained at the end of 2004.
  • Just last week, the Rector reassured the Vista Task Team representing the former Vista staff that these staff members are indeed part of the UFS staff complement.
  • When the Vista campus was incorporated into the UFS, it was agreed that no new first years would be registered there, so as to avoid duplication with the main campus which is only a few kilometers away.
  • Instead, those students who were registered as Vista students at the time of incorporation (January 2004) would be allowed to complete their studies.
  • In terms of this agreement another process of consultation with key stakeholders on and off campus would be initiated to determine how the physical facilities of Vista could be used to contribute to educational and skills provision in the region and the province.
  • This process is still in its early stages and no final decision has been made regarding the long term strategic reconfiguration of the Vista campus.
  • In any case, as stated by the Rector, former Vista staff do not have to fear about their work security as this is not dependent on the future use of Vista campus – the two issues are not related.
  1. Financial aid for students at the Qwaqwa campus
  • Concerning financial aid to students at Qwaqwa, the UFS has to date (that is up to 22 February 2005 ) made available R25 000 each to 705 students.
  • That amounts to R17,6 million.
  1. Financial aid for students at the Vista campus
  • Concerning financial aid to students at Vista , the UFS has to date (that is up to 22 February 2005 ) made available R14 500 each to 104 students.
  • That amounts to R1,5 million.
  1. Registration
  • The registration processes at both these campuses are not yet completed. So final figures are not yet available.
  • What we can say so far, is that 1339 students have registered at the Qwaqwa campus and that more are expected to register. At Vista , 545 students have registered so far, and more are expected to do so.
  • In an effort to assist students during the registration process, management has put in place a structure which is called the Monitoring Committee.
  • This Monitoring Committee provides counseling on courses of study but also sorts out problems relating to academic fees, etc.
  • This is how the UFS management in a concrete way gives expression to its commitment to broadening access for academically deserving students.
  1. Alleged racism
  • There have recently been unsubstantiated allegations of racism leveled at the UFS.
  • We would like to state unequivocally, that the UFS does not and will not tolerate racism in any way.
  • There are policies and procedures in place to deal with such allegations and those who feel aggrieved should bring this to the attention of the Director of Diversity, Mr Billyboy Ramahlele.
  • The UFS also has sensitisation programmes for staff and students to assist in bringing about a truly non-racial, non-sexist, inclusive, multicultural and multilingual campus.

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  1. Conclusion
  • The UFS management remains committed to the further transformation of the institution so that it can play its role in supporting the goal of a non-racial, democratic South Africa united in its diversity.
  • We are committed to the successful incorporation of the Vista and Qwaqwa campuses and to the speedy resolution of all outstanding issues facing staff and students on these campuses.
  • We appeal once again to staff and students on these campuses, who are indeed members of the broader UFS community, to play a constructive role in the debate about the strategic direction of the UFS and all its campuses.

 

Issued by: Mr Anton Fisher

Director: Strategic Communication

Cell: 072-207-8334

Tel: 051-401-2749

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