Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Previous Archive
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

Two degrees in three years for former teacher
2013-12-17

Jacqui Middleton

When Jacqui Middleton entered university in 2011, she did so alongside her daughter, both women enrolling for their first-year studies at the University of the Free State. Three years later and the mother of three have completed two degrees – a double feat achieved with distinction.

Middleton, a former teacher, will receive a BA degree in Corporate and Marketing Communications at the April 2014 graduation ceremony and a master’s degree in Sustainable Agriculture at the June graduation ceremony. With these two qualifications in the bag, Middleton will pursue her studies with a BCom Honours degree next year, as well as a PhD degree in Sustainable Agriculture.

“It was my first full-time studies since 1988,” says Middleton. “I was a teacher for 22 years and my husband kept saying that I needed to get out of the classroom and into the corporate world. I was reluctant because I was so passionate about education and my children were still at school.”

Things changed when Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, visited the Ikanyegeng Primary and High School in Jacobsdal – where she was a teacher – to deliver a motivational talk. Middleton approached Prof Jansen about a bursary. The next year, with the support of her family, she moved to Bloemfontein and stayed on campus studying for two degrees.

“For me it was a major step of faith because we were relying on my salary and I had to give that up to study, so we had to believe there is something bigger beyond the three-year period.”

Something bigger definitely awaited. Her study record of the last three years reflects a dedicated student who passed most of her subjects with marks higher than 80%. 

With her new qualification, Middleton will follow a career in agriculture and farming with her husband. ”I am still passionate about education, but now I am passionate about educating farmers to assist with the land reform process. Land reform is crucial for food security in our country and at the moment we need more success stories of black farmers moving from emerging to commercial farming. I believe that whatever you studied in life should not be wasted.”

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.

Accept