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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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New Genetics building on Bloemfontein Campus spirals into new frontiers
2015-09-11

On Thursday 3 September 2015, the Department of Genetics hosted the official opening of its new offices on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS).

Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS, Prof Neil Heideman, Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, and Prof Paul Grobler, Head of the Department of Genetics cut the ribbon, symbolising the opening of this building with its state-of-the-art facilities.

The new genetics building boasts a new administration block with a reception area, seven offices, a small committee room, and a seminar room for 50 people. Furthermore, the undergraduate laboratory block provides a laboratory for 150 students. The research block has facilities for 30 researchers.

This building also hosts a chemical waste sorting and storage facility. This is a first for the university.

Several sites were investigated for the new building, but due to its size and envisaged second phase, a “green fields” site was found on the western side of the campus. The main entrance caters for visitors from the north, students on foot, and those using the parking area in front of the library. The secondary south entrance is for those who use the dedicated parking area south of the building. The link between these two entrances is the spine of the building, a helix with services/buildings spaced on either side. The helix will be extended in the second phase to keep the circulation and linkage of buildings as simple as possible.

In his opening speech, Prof Grobler gave a breakdown of the history of the Department of Genetics. Today, this department, which opened its doors at the UFS in 1960, is proud of its 131 students and 46 honours students.

According to Major-General Edward Ngokha, Head of the Forensic Science Laboratory, students who graduate from the UFS in the field of genetics make excellent employees. The Forensic Science Laboratory has employed 25 honours students since the BSc Honours degree in Genetics was implemented in 2010.

“The UFS delivers education of high quality and high standards. Thank you for your contribution toward fighting crime by delivering well-prepared, committed employees,” said Major-General Ngokha.

The department presents programmes on population conservation genetics, plant molecular genetics, cytogenetics, forensic genetics, forensic science, human genetics, and behavioural genetics.

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