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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

Centre for Africa Studies launches its ANC Centenary Seminar Series
2010-12-10

Prof. Chris Landsberg, Dr Pule Matjoa, Prof. Kwandiwe Kondlo and Herbert Maserumule, the main speakers during the launch of the ANC Centenary Seminar Series.
Photo: Christiaan van der Merwe

The Centre for Africa Studies at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently launched its series of seminars commemorating the centenary celebrations of the African National Congress (ANC). The launch of the series took place on 30 November 2010, with the seminar series running from February 2011 until February 2012, the year of the centenary celebrations of the ANC.

Along with UFS staff members and students, various special guests also attended the launch of the seminar series, including former Premier Ms Winkie Direko, representatives of the office of the current Premier and the Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, Prof. Jonathan Jansen. Prof. Jansen praised the Centre for Africa Studies for its vision in establishing the seminar series and added that he would be a regular attendee when the seminars kicked off in 2011.

The seminar series is the brainchild of Prof. Kwandiwe Kondlo, Head of the Centre for Africa Studies at the UFS. Prof. Kondlo explained that the aims of the seminars were to delve into the legacy of the ANC from a firm historical perspective, as well as to develop a firmer understanding of the dynamics of contemporary South Africa. He stressed the scholarly and academic nature of the seminars, hoping for robust and critical debate amongst future audiences about the topics at hand. Publications in journals and books at the end of the series will be the secondary objective of the Centre.

The three guest lecturers for the launch were Dr Pule Matjoa, Prof. Chris Landsberg and Herbert Maserumule. Dr Matjoa, an ANC veteran, elucidated the history of the party from an insider’s perspective while Prof. Landsberg spoke about the past and present foreign policy of the ANC. Mr Maserumule examined the ruling party’s economic thinking, with special focus on the distinctions between a democratic and developmental state.

The question-and-answer session after the lecture produced lively debate, which set a premise for the rest of the series. The first seminar in the series will take place on 4 February 2011.
 

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