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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

"We cannot train for unemployment"
2009-11-16

The prestige forum was attended by, from the left: Prof. Dirk van Damme, Head of the Centre for Education research and innovation at OECD in Paris, France; Dr Saretha Brüssow of the Planning Unit: Teaching and Learning; Mr Francois Marais, Director of CHESD; Prof. Jonathan Jansen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor; Prof. Driekie Hay, Vice-Rector Academic Planning and the guest speaker; and Prof. Magda Fourie of the University of Stellenbosch.
Photo: Gerhard Louw
“We cannot train for unemployment. We must continuously look at what employers and the world want, and update,” Prof. Magda Fourie, Vice-Rector: Teaching and Learning at the University of Stellenbosch, recently said at a prestige forum for teaching and learning at the University of the Free State (UFS).

Prof. Fourie, former Vice-Rector: Academic Planning at the UFS delivered the second Magda Fourie Prestige Lecture at the forum. The forum was presented by the Centre for Higher Education Studies and Learning (CHESD) and the Planning Unit: Teaching and Learning. Various presentations were made on innovations in teaching and learning at the UFS.

Prof. Fourie said research has shown that the knowledge, skills, competencies and values of students are out of sync with the needs of the world out there. Higher Education must look at the context in which it operates and the relevance of its teaching and learning. “We are busy with the cultivation of humanity,” she said.

The UFS is doing excellent work with its bridging programmes and other universities will have to give attention to it. The UFS is also excellent in its extended programmes and have more women and foreign students than the national average. The UFS, however, has a lower percentage of black students than the national average.

The UFS is also excellent in terms of postgraduate students. The national average is 36%, with the UFS boasting 47%. Prof. Fourie expressed her concern for the low throughput in Business and Economics at the UFS where only 13% of those who enter the system graduate. “These are the people we need for this country’s economy.”

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