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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

An exceptional year at Kovsies — one of the most successful years in academic achievement
2014-12-04

 

The University of the Free State (UFS) had an exceptional year, with many staff members and students performing both nationally and internationally. Considerable progress has also been made in improving the academic standards of the university.

“So far, this has been one of the most successful years in academic achievement. The UFS now has the highest academic pass rate in years, partly as a result of the admission standards which were raised four years ago.

“We now also have the highest rate of research publications, one of the highest publication figures for scholarly books in history, three Mandela Rhodes scholars and several international communication awards”, says Prof Jonathan Jansen, Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the UFS.

“The university now attracts top professors from all over the country and other parts of the world and for the first time in many years, two researchers received A-ratings from the National Research Foundation (NRF). This is the first time in the history of the UFS that two A-ratings were awarded simultaneously. The most researchers ever were rated by the NRF this year. After the constant turmoil of a few years ago, Kovsies has now become one of the most stable campuses in South Africa,” Prof Jansen says.

The impartial findings of a recent survey of UFS stakeholders showed that our values are endorsed by 92%; 86% agrees with our vision; 81% agree with our goals; 77% agree with our transformation; 78% believe that we are inclusive; and 78% applauded our overall reputation index. “These figures are very different from a few years ago when the university experienced a crisis,” he says.
 
According to Prof Jansen, the UFS’s financial situation is one of the most stable of all universities in South Africa, with a strong balance sheet and growing financial reserves – way better than before. This is exactly the reason why the UFS received confirmation from the Independent Regulatory Board of Auditors (IRBA) this year that we complied with international standards of reporting for the financial year which ended on 31 December 2013.

“I am also pleased to report that the crisis in the delivery of health services in the Free State province has been resolved due to collaboration between the UFS Management (including the Dean: Health Sciences and Head of the School of Medicine), the Department of Health and the Premier, Mr Ace Magashule. Although the loss of skilled personnel is still a concern, the Dean and Head of the School of Medicine are recreating the Health Services Platform at Universitas Hospital. However, the academic training of no undergraduate medical student or any student in the Health Sciences was influenced by the crisis in the Universitas and Pelonomi Hospitals”, he says.

The UFS is regarded around the world as a model of transformation and reconciliation in the student body. The recent SRC elections are only the most visible example of how far we have come in terms of leadership diversity. “Not a week goes by in which other universities, nationally and abroad, do not come to Kovsies to consult with us on how they can learn from us and deepen their own transformations, especially among students”, Prof Jansen says.

“The UFS will continue its model of inclusive transformation which provides opportunities for study and for employment for all South Africans, including international students and colleagues. We remain committed to our parallel-medium instruction in which Afrikaans remains a language of instruction; we are in fact the only medical school in the country that offers education and training in Afrikaans and not only English. We provide bursaries and overseas study opportunities to all our students, irrespective of race. And our ‘future professors’ programme is richly diverse as we seek the academic stars of the future. But we remain steadfast in our goal of making the UFS a top world university in its academic ambitions and its human commitments,” Prof Jansen says.

 

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