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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 Faculty of Health Sciences celebrates its newly qualified doctors
2016-12-09

Description: MBChB final-year students  Tags: MBChB final-year students  

The UFS medical students who obtained their
qualifications Cum Laude are: front row: Dr Madeli Jonker,
Dr Corli Leonard, Dr Jacques Kok, Dr Kelly Fuller.
Back row: Dr Henco Nel, Dr Dan Holmberg,
Dr Rikus Hoogenboezem and Dr Ben van Niekerk.
Photo: Marie-Louise du Toit


“Kovsies’ doctors stand out. They go the extra mile. Go out there and be a true representative of Kovsies’ servanthood.” These were the words of Prof Gert van Zyl, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, at the annual function that was held by the School of Medicine for final-year medical students.

The function celebrates students who have obtained their MB ChB degrees, becoming qualified doctors. Prof Van Zyl went on to congratulate the students for thriving in a difficult year.  “From today onwards, your degrees are in the bag, and nobody can take that away from you,” said Prof Van Zyl.

Class of 2016 praised for their tenacity

A total of 116 students obtained the qualifications, and were acknowledged as the class that showed the most tenacity, commitment and dedication to their studies. Nine students obtained their MB ChB qualifications Cum Laude. The medical students will be graduating at the UFS Summer Graduations on 8 December 2016.

Henco Nel, Michael Linström, and Daniel Holmberg were recognised as the best overall performing students in the class of 2016. Nel received prizes for best student in the departments of Urology and Orthopaedic Surgery; Linström walked away with awards from the departments of Anaesthesiology, Family Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and Holmberg in Internal Medicine, and Paediatrics and Child Health.

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