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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

Inaugural lecture challenges leaders in higher education
2012-10-30

Dr Mamphela Ramphele
Photo: Stephen Collett
29 October 2012


Lecture
(Pdf format)

According to international statistics, South Africa’s school performance is rated 140th out of 144 countries. South Africa is also ranked 143rd out of 144 countries when it comes to  the quality of mathematics and science. About 600 000 South African graduates are unemployed and about 500 000 learners are failed by our current education system.

Dr Mamphela Ramphele brought these shocking statistics to the light at the inaugural lecture of the Annual Prestige Lecture at the Faculty of Education on Thursday 25 October 2012 at the University of the Free State (UFS).

This lecture will henceforth be known as the Mamphela Ramphele Prestige Lecture.

Dr Ramphelefocused her lecture on ‘Educating the 21st century citizen’.

“One of the defining characteristics of the 21st century is the vast number of choices that confront us every day at a personal, professional and political level.”

She asked if 21st century South Africans are equipped with the skills to make the choices that confront them daily.

“The failure to transform our apartheid education into one characterized by equity and excellence, is producing graduates who lack self-confidence.”

Dr Ramphele said that in South Africa about 1/6th of government expenditure goes to education, but the outcomes remain shocking.

For Dr Ramphele the answer lies in creating platforms for open conversation about South Africa’s painful past and the agenda for radical socio-economic restructuring should include the fundamental transformation of education.

She praised the UFS, under its current inspirational leadership, for its role as change agents through the education.

Prof. Rita Niemann, senior professor at the Faculty said the Annual Mamphela Ramphele lecture is to further expand and celebrate education in South Africa.

“Dr Ramphela has given us so much food for thought by challenging leaders in higher education to speak out about the questionable state of education in South Africa and to become engaged in the ‘revolution of the spirit’ in order to deliver citizens who own and shape the country.”
 

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