Photo: Leon Lestrade

JOHANNESBURG - With the 2018 academic year in full swing at campuses across South Africa, students are urged to be vigilant when it comes to their possessions and, even more importantly, their personal safety.

"Criminals know that students are high-value targets,” says Warwick Scott-Rodger, the head of Dialdirect. “Smartphones, laptops and tablets are part of many students’ essentials kit and provide criminals with prime pickings. Students who are enjoying a newfound freedom, are up for a party and are keen to meet new people offer ideal targets for criminals.”

Dialdirect, together with anti-crime activist and Namola’s chief ambassador, Yusuf Abramjee, has the following tips to help you make the most of student life while still staying safe:

BE SMART 

  • Safety in numbers. Try not to travel around campus alone. Stick to groups of two or more and take well-used routes.
  • Trust your gut. If you have a strange feeling that something may be wrong, you’re probably right. Change your route to a better travelled, well-lit one and head towards a public space or campus security.
  • Plan ahead. Make sure you are familiar with the routes between your residence, classes and activities.
  • Follow the lights. Stick to well-lit and busy areas. Stay on the part of the pathway farthest away from shrubs, dark doorways and alleys where people can hide.
  • Tell somebody. Share your schedule with parents and close friends and create a buddy system. Share friends’ phone numbers with your parents and your wider buddy group.
  • Keep personal details safe. Be very careful with whom you share your personal details, to avoid the chance of identity theft. Make sure your driver’s licence, banking passwords and passport details are kept safe.
  • Protect your property. Theft is the largest crime on campus. Frequent targets are bicycles and personal property that is left unlocked or unattended.

BE SMARTER: Not everyone drinks, but if you do:

  • Play it safe. If you are going to drink, plan your night out with safety in mind, and be wary of drinking games, particularly those that encourage binge drinking.
  • Eat up. Skipping meals makes you feel the effects of alcohol faster and more.
  • Designate a driver. Don’t get into a car with a driver who has been drinking alcohol or one who texts while at the wheel. Dialdirect offers a driver assist service to help after a good night on the town.
  • Trust your senses. Don’t drink anything that you haven’t seen come out of the original bottle, or that tastes or smells strange. Take a small first sip, and if you’re suspicious, rather stop drinking than take the chance.
  • Date right. Do your homework on a potential date and arrange to meet in public places. Take money for a taxi or arrange your own transport in case you need to cut the date short.

BE THE SMARTEST: Make sure you have the tools and cover for when things do go wrong.

  • Insure. If something happens, you don’t want to be without the necessities when university pressure hits. Dialdirect has Portable Possessions Insurance that covers valuables such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and sunglasses.
  • There’s an app for that. Download and test the free Namola safety app, an innovative communication tool the will ensure you to get help fast. The app, which has been downloaded more than 140 000 times since its nationwide launch, connects you to emergency services in a matter of seconds and allows you to share your location via GPS.
  • Request help. When in an emergency situation, immediately use Namola to request assistance. The Response Centre will call you back and co-ordinate emergency assistance. A delay in reporting an incident decreases the chances of apprehending the suspects, so ensure that you request assistance as fast as possible.
  • Inform friends and family. Namola lets you add five emergency contacts to the app. When you request help, your emergency contacts will be alerted. Your family, friends and even local emergency services such as campus security will be notified of your situation, kept up to date on progress, and will have the ability to respond to the emergency.

"The most important rule is not to trust any person or situation too easily, to keep your eyes peeled and to be vigilant,” says Scott-Rodger. “Criminals count on catching you off guard. Take away the element of surprise and it’s already half the battle won.”

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