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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

UFS welcomes Constitutional Court’s ruling on its Language Policy
2017-12-29



The executive management of the University of the Free State (UFS) welcomes today’s judgement by the Constitutional Court in favour of the university’s Language Policy. The judgement follows an appeal lodged by AfriForum against the judgement and order delivered by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on the implementation of the UFS Language Policy on 28 March 2017. 
 
In a majority ruling, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng denied AfriForum’s application for leave to appeal the SCA’s ruling, and said the UFS Council’s approval of the Language Policy was lawful and constitutionally valid. The court found that the adoption of the Language Policy was neither inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution, nor did it violate the Constitutional rights of any students and/or staff members of the UFS.
 
Today’s landmark judgement is not only paving the way for the UFS to continue with the implementation plan for its Language Policy as approved by the UFS Council on 11 March 2016, but it is also an indication of the value which the university’s decision to change its Language Policy to English as primary medium of instruction has on higher education in South Africa.
 
“The judgement by the Constitutional Court is not a victory against Afrikaans as language. The UFS will continue to develop Afrikaans as an academic language. A key feature of the UFS Language Policy is flexibility and the commitment to strive for a truly multilingual environment. Today’s judgement allows the UFS to proceed with the implementation of its progressive approach to a language-rich environment that is committed to multilingualism,” says Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS.
 
According to Prof Petersen, the UFS is dedicated to the commitments in the Language Policy and, in particular, to make sure that language development is made available to students in order to ensure their success as well as greater levels of academic literacy – especially in English. This includes contributing to the development of Sesotho and isiZulu as higher-education languages within the context of the needs of the different UFS campuses.
 
“We can now continue to ensure that language is not used or perceived as a tool for the social exclusion of staff and/or students on any of the three campuses, and continue to promote a pragmatic learning and administrative environment committed to and accommodative to linguistic diversity within the regional, national, and international environments in which the UFS operates,” says Prof Petersen.
 
The UFS is the first university in South Africa appearing before the Constitutional Court regarding its Language Policy. 
 
During 2017, the Faculties of Health Sciences, the Humanities, and Law started with the implementation of the new Language Policy at first-year level. This includes the presentation of tutorials in Afrikaans. The remaining faculties will start implementing the policy as from 2018.

Released by:
Lacea Loader (Director: Communication and Brand Management)
Telephone: +27 51 401 2584 | +27 83 645 2454
Email: news@ufs.ac.za | loaderl@ufs.ac.za
Fax: +27 51 444 6393

Related articles:
UFS welcomes unanimous judgement about its Language Policy in the Supreme Court of Appeal (28 March 2017)
Judgement in the Supreme Court of Appeal about UFS Language Policy (17 November 2016)
Implications of new Language Policy for first-year students in 2017 (17 October 2016)
UFS to proceed with appealing to Supreme Court of Appeal regarding new Language Policy (29 September 2016)
UFS to lodge application to appeal judgment about new Language Policy (22 July 2016)
High Court ruling about new UFS Language Policy (21 July 2016)
UFS Council approves a new Language Policy (11 March 2016)

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