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30 March 2021 | Story Dikgapane Makgetha | Photo Supplied
Social Work students at the UFS are working with the relevant stakeholders in an Engaged Teaching and Learning service-learning project to promote and respect children’s rights.

The protection of children’s rights is the principal achievement on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 Agenda. Emphasis has always been on the promotion and respect of children’s rights. Since the SDGs are grounded in a child rights-based approach, the University of the Free State (UFS) Social Work students – by engaging in a multi-disciplinary methodology – involve all the relevant stakeholders in their Engaged Teaching and Learning service-learning module project. 

The social partners, which included the South African Police Service (Child Protection Unit), the Department of Social Development, the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of Health, faith-based organisations, and other children’s advocacy agents, were involved from inception until the apex launch of the project. 

Access to basic human rights

In their exit level, fourth-year Social Work students participate in community work practicums, which incorporates the theoretical development process in adherence to the objectives of their community work. The initial phase of the project involved the situation analysis exercise, which the students implemented through collaboration with the Rekgonne Primary School action committee. 

The outcome of the survey indicated that some learners were exposed to physical and sexual abuse. It was also found that they did not have access to basic human rights such as education, health care, and social grants due to the absence of the required legal documents. From the interactive discussions that took place during the launch, it emerged that some children do not have birth certificates required for school registration and access to social grants. 

Through the students’ community project, a platform was created where important skills and information could be shared among all important role players (who are in different professions and guardians of children’s human rights). It is believed that since learners are spending more hours in school, educators would be the primary detectors to notice signs of negligence and potentially adverse circumstances among their learners.

Role players collaborate to make a difference

Through the scholarship of engagement, students succeeded in engaging with the community to attend to societal challenges (violated children’s rights). In order to realise the outcome of the project, continuous collaboration among all role players must be sustained. All parties adopted a resolution to create safe environments both at school and at home by supporting families and caregivers.

Government partners that participated were determined to strengthen protection systems and improve child welfare, reinforcing the implementation of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005.  Educators were empowered and supported in the mandate of the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC). This is an initiative that involves stakeholders in improving the quality of education for all children and addresses issues of safety and well-being for all children. 

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Student Court is ready to exercise its legal power
2015-09-07

 

Student disputes at the University of the Free State (UFS) will be regulated henceforth by the Student Court that has been re-established at the Bloemfontein Campus. The Student Court will offer practical training to law students thus strengthening their theoretical knowledge to produce employable graduates.

The Student Court was launched on Friday 21 August 2015, cultivating a self-determined studentship and citizenship, of which South Africa can be proud.

Advocate Barry Roux, Oscar Pistorius’s defence attorney, Judge Lebotsang Bosielo, of the South African Supreme Court of Appeal, Profs Caroline Nicholson, Dean of the Faculty of Law, and Teuns Verschoor,  Chairperson of the UFS  Disciplinary Board, attended this auspicious event.

During his keynote address, Adv. Roux said the Student Court serves as a stepping-stone in the practice of integrity, respect, and preparedness within the law profession.

“Young professionals have a mandate to excel. No matter what, stick to honesty and the truth. If you want to be a role model and make your family proud, do more.” he advised.

Judge Lebotsang Bosielo urged students to use “the rare opportunity to practise and uphold the law with austerity.”

“You should broaden the knowledge of substantive law, law of evidence, procedural law, and the Constitution of South Africa. Opportunities such as the Student Court enable law students to strengthen the practice of theory beyond the parameters of the lecture rooms,” he emphasised.

The re-establishment of the Student Court was initiated by Lindokuhle Ntuli, Student Representative Council (SRC) member on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. The UFS Council approved the proposal for the court in 2006, but it had remained inactive since then. It was not until 2014 when Lindokuhle assumed office that the concept was revived.

“As an independent body, the Student Court is ready to exercise its legal powers with the aim of establishing a student community and a culture of student governance committed to justice, equality, and accountability,” he said.


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