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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

In January 1, 2003, the Qwa-Qwa campus of the University of the North (Unin) was incorporated into the University of the Free State (UFS).
2003-02-07


FREDERICK FOURIE

IN January 1, 2003, the Qwa-Qwa campus of the University of the North (Unin) was incorporated into the University of the Free State (UFS).

While this is merely the beginning of a long and complex process, it does represent a major milestone in overcoming the apartheid legacy in education, realising the anti-apartheid goal of a single non-racial university serving the Free State.

The incorporation is also part of the minister's broader restructuring of the higher education landscape in South Africa - a process which aims to reshape the ideologically driven legacy of the past.

In contrast to the past educational and social engineering that took place, the current process of incorporating the Qwa-Qwa campus of Unin into the UFS is informed by three fundamentally progressive policy objectives, clearly outlined in the education white paper 3: (A framework for the transformation of higher education):

To meet the demands of social justice to address the social and structural inequalities that characterise higher education.

To address the challenges of globalisation, in particular the role of knowledge and information processing in driving social and economic development.

To ensure that limited resources are effectively and efficiently utilised, given the competing and equally pressing priorities in other social sectors.

Besides informing the way the UFS is managing the current incorporation, these policy objectives have also informed the transformation of the UFS as an institution over the past five years.

In 2001, former president Nelson Mandela lauded the success of the UFS in managing this transformation, by describing the campus as a model of multiculturalism and multilingualism. This was at his acceptance of an honorary doctorate from the UFS.

Indeed our vision for the Qwa-Qwa campus as a branch of the UFS is exactly the same as it is for the main UFS campus - a model of transformation, academic excellence, community engagement and financial sustainability, building on the histories and strengths of both the Qwa-Qwa campus and the UFS (Bloemfontein campus).

Realising this vision will be a giant leap forward in establishing a unified higher education landscape in the Free State.

In more concrete terms, the UFS is working towards this vision by focusing on the following areas of intervention: access and equity; academic renewal; investment in facilities; and sound financial management.

These interventions are being made not to preserve any vestiges of privilege or superiority, but precisely to increase access for students from poor backgrounds and to promote equity and representivity among all staff.

The current growth phase of the UFS has seen student enrolment almost double over the past five years, in particular black students, who now constitute approximately 55 percent of the student population of nearly 18 000 (including off-campus and online students).

But it has not just been a numbers game. Our approach has been to ensure access with success.

Our admissions policy, coupled with the academic support and "career preparation" programmes we offer, have resulted in significant successes for students who otherwise would not have been allowed to study at a university.

This will be continued at Qwa-Qwa as well.

Our academic offerings too have undergone dramatic change. We have become the first university in the country to offer a degree programme based on the recognition of prior learning (RPL).

This is not just a matter of academic renewal but of access as well, especially for working adults in our country who were previously denied a university education.

As for the sound financial management of the UFS (including the Qwa-Qwa campus), this is being done not for the sake of saving a few rands and cents, but for the greater value to our society that comes from having sustainable institutions.

It is sustainable universities that can make long-term investments to fund employment equity, provide information technology for students, upgrade laboratories, construct new buildings, develop research capacity, and provide a safe environment for students and staff, as is happening now at the UFS.

As a result of such management, a practical benefit for prospective students at the Qwa-Qwa campus of the UFS will be lower academic fees in some cases compared with the Unin fees.

As is the case with all these processes, there are concerns from staff and students at Qwa-Qwa and the broader community of the region that the Qwa-Qwa campus serves.

To get the campus viable and to ensure its continuation in the short term, tough choices had to be made by the minister of education regarding which programmes to offer and fund.

But we have been encouraged by the community's understanding that these concerns can be addresed over time as the campus becomes financially viable.

Meetings between the top mangement of the UFS and community representatives, staff and students at Qwa-Qwa have laid the basis for building a climate of trust in such a complex process.

We should not be captives of the past divisions but build this new unified higher education landscape that can meet our country's developmental needs.

It should be a higher education landscape that is based on broadening access, promoting equity and social justice, developing academic excellence, and the effective and efficient management of scarce resources. This should be our common common objective.

Professor Frederick Fourie the rector and vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State (UFS)

 

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