Following the attack of a first-year student at one of the university’s private off-campus residences, the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University has introduced self-defence classes to help empower female students to keep themselves safe.
The decision to empower the female students was made after protests and a subsequent march organized by the students, staff and management on November 6 to the Pretoria West police station against gender-based violence.
The self-defence class is hosted every Saturday at the university’s sports complex at the Ga-Rankuwa campus and is led by instructor Shihan Isaac “African-Tiger” Mashinini. The classes are presented under the theme “Time to fight back”.
First-year student, Thato Ledwaba said: “I can’t simply rely on the security that the institution is providing on campus. With these classes should I find myself in a secluded place accosted by a perpetrator I feel like I might have some chance to defend myself”.
Mashinini decided to be a part of the initiative because he was touched about the incident and wanted to help contribute to the community. Commenting on the matter, he said that with women being killed daily, he felt it was important to teach them skills to defend not only themselves but their families.
“The first thing is for them to learn the techniques, and second for them to be mentally strong because you can be as strong as Mr Universe, but if you’re mentally weak, you’ll lose the fight,” said the 6th Dan black belt holder.
Mashinini added that they were teaching the students how to defend themselves against knife attacks and when someone grabbed them unexpectedly.
“Practice makes perfect and they need to tell themselves that they will be training daily while these criminals are probably sitting around doing nothing, drinking; for as long as they are able-bodied, they can defend themselves and teach criminals a lesson,” he said.
Karabo Matlakala who is a student at the university said she was grateful something like this had been started by the university. She survived an attempted kidnapping after she experienced a puncture along the N1.
“They took everything we had, and the experience left with me separation anxiety and depression to the point where I just can’t go out at night alone. But this has given me that motivation to stand up and fight for myself,” said Matlakala.
Jacob Seitshiro, Sports Administrator at the university said they would be offering the class for free. He said they would speak to the management about possibly holding some of the classes during the week to ensure many students were able to attend.