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04 June 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Prof Cathryn Tonne
Air pollution not only costs lives, it costs money too. Pictured is Prof Cathryn Tonne presenting a guest lecture on air pollution at the Bloemfontein Campus.

Health effects associated with ambient air pollution (AAP) have been well documented. Subsequently, the relationship between pollution and financial outcomes have also become a focus for case studies globally. An Environmental Research journal article revealed that “low and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected by the global burden of adverse health effects caused by AAP”. 

A high price to pay

In 2012, high concentrations of air pollution caused 7.4% of all deaths, costing South Africa up to 6% of its Gross Domestic Product. According to the recent International Growth Centre study conducted by senior University of Cape Town researchers, this is a direct consequence of the country’s heavy dependence of fossil fuels, a source of health-damaging air pollution and greenhouse pollutants.

Stunted human and economic growth

These South African statistics are attested to by Prof Cathryn Tonne who recently presented a guest lecture on air pollution which was hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) Business School.

“Air pollution can affect economic development through several pathways, and health is an important one. Air pollution is linked to shorter life expectancy, chronic disease, asthma exacerbation and many other health outcomes that result in absenteeism from work and school. These have large direct costs to the health system.” 

Prof Tonne says that air pollution exposure in children is linked to reduced cognitive development, with important impacts on human capital. As a result, children are not reaching their full potential in terms of neurodevelopment, which has an effect on their income prospects and the economy as a whole. 

Resolving a looming disaster

Technology may be employed to radically clean the air. Cities need to lead in the reduction of air pollution by promoting renewable energy, using active transport such as walking or cycling, and investing in infrastructure to make this safe and attractive. 

With researchers playing a major role in strengthening the case for aggressive air pollution control, the government needs to implement policies in order to control sources of air pollution. This global health and economic issue also requires individuals and communities to play their part to improve air quality.

News Archive

A bridge to the future for school leavers
2009-03-04

 
Ms Merridy Wilson-Strydom, Research Consultant at the Centre for Higher Education Studies and Development at the UFS. 
 Photo: Supplied)

Thousands of learners in the country’s high schools fail to qualify for post-school education and training. Now a unique project funded by the Ford Foundation and being piloted at the University of the Free State (UFS) seeks to provide such learners with a lifeline.

The 2008 Grade 12 results showed once again that the schooling system is – and has been for a long time – in the throes of a severe crisis. The most disturbing feature of this crisis is that the system does not produce learners with the required level of literacy, numeracy and other cognitive skills to further their education or to become part of the country’s workforce.

Clearly this situation is untenable in a developing country such as ours, facing the immense challenges of a severe skills shortage, poverty and unemployment. We cannot afford to have hundreds of thousands of young people walking the streets without any prospect of a decent living and a future of opportunity.

The UFS and partners in the Free State Higher Education Consortium (FSHEC) have devised a unique programme to help underprepared and even unprepared school-leavers who have fallen through the cracks of the school system.

“We are hoping to make a meaningful contribution to the challenging field of creating educational opportunities for post-school study and the world of work through the generous support of the Ford Foundation,” says Ms Merridy Wilson-Strydom, Research Consultant at the Centre for Higher Education Studies and Development at the UFS.

“The Skills for a Changing World Programme is specifically aimed at removing barriers to educational opportunities for school-leavers who are not able to access higher education – mainstream or extended degrees. At the moment there are few, if any, meaningful opportunities for those learners who come through the school system un/underprepared,” she says.

The primary target group for the NQF Level-5 Programme is young people between the ages of 18 and 25 who are currently excluded from post-schooling educational opportunities. The duration of the programme is one year.

According to Ms Wilson-Strydom, the core modules of the activity-driven curriculum are English Literacy and Language Development, Mathematical Literacy, Information and Communication Technology and Your Global Positioning System (YGPS), which focuses on study skills and critical life skills, e.g. dealing with diversity. Students will also be supported to make informed choices about their future study or career directions.

“The development of the core-module materials is almost complete and from the second semester we plan to test the programme by means of a pilot project, which will be conducted on the UFS’s South Campus in Bloemfontein,” says Ms Wilson-Strydom.

“The pilot study will involve a group of 20-50 learners who have finished Grade 12 but do not qualify for the UFS bridging programme known as the Career Preparation Programme or any other higher-education programmes,” says Ms Wilson-Strydom.

Although not yet accredited, the project team aims to have the programme accredited as a Higher Certificate and is also exploring the possibility of registering the programme as a Short Learning Programme.

“One of the challenges with access and bridging programmes in the country is that students do not obtain a formal qualification for their bridging year. Hence those who do not continue with higher-education study (or cannot continue for various reasons such as finances), do not gain the recognition they should get for what they have learnt during their bridging year.”

“Our focus on developing the Skills for a Changing World Programme as a qualification in its own right is a key innovation in the current education and training landscape,” says Ms Wilson-Strydom.

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za  
4 March 2009
 

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