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26 February 2020 | Story Leonie Bolleurs
Vegetable tunnels
Two vegetable tunnels were recently established on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus to contribute to the fight against food insecurity.

Food insecurity is a problem on university campuses worldwide. The three campuses of the University of the Free State (UFS) are not exempt from this plight. Research findings indicate that more than 64% of students at the university go through periods of hunger.

Annelize Visagie, , from the Division of Student Affairs who is heading the Food Environment Office at the UFS, confirms that food insecurity at higher education institutions is not a new phenomenon.

In a study with first-year students as focus, Visagie found that academic performance declines and coping mechanisms increase as the severity of food insecurity increases.

“Students use different coping mechanisms, with an alarming percentage of students (40,6%) using fasting as an excuse to friends for not having food, 60% of students skipping meals because they do not have enough money, and 43,2% of students being too embarrassed to ask for help.”

Visagie states that various factors contribute to this alarming scenario, with the main reason being that the majority of students come from impoverished economic and social circumstances. This suggests that although students receive NSFAS funding or any other bursary, it is not a guarantee that they are food secure.

Focus on student wellbeing
Aligning with the UFS strategic goal of improving student success and wellbeing, UFS staff is working hard to implement initiatives and obtain sponsorships and food donations to ensure that students do not go hungry.

Members of the university’s Food Environment Project, Drs Johan van Niekerk and JW Swanepoel from the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Rural Development and Extension (CENSARDE), and Karen Scheepers from the Division of Student Affairs who is heading KovsieAct partnered to move the existing vegetable tunnels on the UFS experimental farm to the Bloemfontein Campus.

The construction of the tunnels and boxes was financed by Tiger Brands. Professor Michael Rudolph and Dr Evans Muchesa who are involved with the Siyakhana Food Gardens, assisted with the training of students and consultation throughout the project.

The two tunnels (30 m x 10 m each) are covered with netting, and two water tanks with pumps are fitted to provide the necessary irrigation.

Vegetables add value
Dr Swanepoel explains: “In each tunnel there are 20 raised wooden boxes. Each residence received one box where they planted one type of vegetable crop, including Swiss chard, cabbage, carrots, beet, kale, and broccoli.”

Residence Committee members from all on- and off-campus student communities in civic and social-responsibility portfolios, as well as civic and social-responsibility student associations, received the necessary training to plant vegetables.

The vegetables were planted in mid-February and the first harvest is expected around mid-April.

This initiative, which will help students in the near future to keep the hunger pangs at bay in a healthy way, adds to the existing No Student Hungry programme. Visagie says it is important for the university to assist students in making healthy choices and to educate them on decisions to secure nutritional food for themselves.

In addition, the university also received food parcels from Rise Against Hunger, together with donations from organisations such as Gift of the Givers – providing 200 food parcels to students on the Qwaqwa Campus, and the recent donation from Tiger Brands – providing 500 food parcels to students.

News Archive

Haemophilia home infusion workshop
2017-12-17


 Description: haemophilia Tags: Haemophilia, community, patient, clinical skills, training 

Parents receive training for homecare of their children with haemophilia.
Photo Supplied


Caregivers for haemophilia patients, and patients themselves from around the Free State and Northern Cape attended a home infusion workshop held by the Clinical Skills unit in the Faculty of Health Sciences in July 2017. “It felt liberating and I feel confident to give the factor to my son correctly,” said Amanda Chaba-Okeke, the mother of a young patient, at the workshop. Her son, also at the workshop, agreed. “It felt lovely and good to learn how to administer factor VIII.” 

Clinical skills to empower parents and communities

There were two concurrent sessions: one attended by doctors from the Haemophilia Treatment Centre, and the other attended by community members including factor VIII and XI recipients, caregivers and parents. The doctors’ meeting was shown informative videos and demonstrations on how to administer the newly devised factor VII and XI kit, and discussed the pressing need for trained nurses at local clinics. Dr Jaco Joubert, a haematologist, made an educational presentation to the community members.

The South African Haemophilia Foundation was represented by Mahlomola Sewolane, who gave a brief talk about the role of the organisation in relation to the condition. Meanwhile, procedural training in the simulation laboratory involved doctors and nurses helping participants to learn the procedures by using mannequins and even some volunteers from among the patients.

A medical condition causing serious complications
Haemophilia is a medical condition in which the ability of the blood to clot is severely impaired, even from a slight injury. The condition is typically caused by a hereditary lack of a coagulation factor, most often factor VIII. Usually patients must go through replacement therapy in which concentrates of clotting factor VIII (for haemophilia A) or clotting factor IX (for haemophilia B) are slowly dripped or injected into the vein, to help replace the clotting factor that is missing or low. Patients have to receive this treatment in hospital.

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