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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

Colloquium focuses on rural education
2012-10-10

Some of the international delegates during the second annual colloquium on rural education recently held at the Qwaqwa Campus.
10 October 2012

 The second edition of the Sustainable Rural Learning Ecologies (SuRLEc) Colloquium was held at the University of the Free State's Qwaqwa Campus this week. This three-day international event provided the Faculty of Education's postgraduate students with a platform to present their research and to learn from experienced researchers from all over the world.

In his opening address, the Faculty's Programme Head, Dr Dipane Hlalele, challenged all delegates to translate their research into achievable goals to address all the challenges facing rural education.

"Excellence in teaching and learning in a rural context remains a challenge for all sectors and levels of the education endeavour," Dr Hlalele said.

"Urban and metropolitan schools, colleges and universities may unintentionally structure their learning programmes in such a manner that they neglect rural attributes. This results in the marginalising of learners and students from rural environments. To complete the loop, these institutions are more likely to fail in preparing graduates for decisive contributions to sustainable rural learning ecologies," Dr Hlalele added.

The colloquium was officially opened by the Vice-Rector: External Relations, Dr Choice Makhetha, who highlighted the fact that the UFS was already doing its bit in levelling the learning playfields in higher education.

"We are aware that many of our students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds find it hard to cope at university. As a result, we are not waiting for them to come through to us. We are already in partnership with a number of schools where we help learners to improve their results," Dr Makhetha said.

The crucial role played by rural teachers was celebrated during a gala dinner to honour and acknowledge their efforts despite a myriad of daily challenges.

Ms Jabulile Mabaso (The Mills Primary Farm School) was honoured for 'Excellence in multi-grade teaching in Foundation and Intermediate phases'. Ms Rekha Mathew (Sibonakaliso Primary Farm School) and Mr Andries Motsoere (Tshebedisano Primary Farm School) were awarded for 'Excellence in managing multi-grade curriculum'.

The 2012 SuRLEc Honorary Award went to Ms Motshedisi Damane for her valuable contribution to the development of rural education in the Thabo Mofutsanyana Education District. Last year's recipient was the Dean of the Faculty of Education, Professor Dennis Francis.

Delegates and keynote speakers came from Thailand, Malaysia, the Unites States of America as well as the SADC countries of Botswana, Zimbabwe and Lesotho. South Africa was represented by the Universities of the North-West, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and CUT, amongst others.

 

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