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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

Projects of the South Campus inspire excellence
2014-12-18

The University of the Free State’s (UFS’s) South Campus in Bloemfontein runs several projects to make a difference in the lives of learners and educators in the central region. These projects are based on the very essence of the UFS – to ‘inspire excellence, change lives’.

Three projects which have been very successful since the outset are the UFS Schools Partnership Project, the Family Math and Family Science Project and the Internet Broadcast Project.

The Schools Partnership Project attempts to empower teachers by improving their teaching skills in critical Gr 10 – Gr 12 subjects (Physical Science, Mathematics and Accounting).

Poorly performing schools are invited to join in the programme. A mentor, providing guidance to teachers in the planning of lessons, transferring knowledge and creating a healthy learning environment in the classroom, is assigned to each subject teacher. Management and leadership skills are also improved.

Hercules Dreyer, Programme Manager, says the success of the programme can be seen in the lessons, the results and the progress which have been made.

“In 2013, the pass rate of participating schools has grown from 71.5% to 85%. We had an increase in donors and the project went from 22 schools with 12 mentors in 2013 to 72 schools and 34 mentors in 2015.”

The UFS Family Math and Family Science Project, which is already in its sixth year of existence, are extremely popular. This intervention programme focus on bringing about a better understanding of Mathematics and Science in learners, teachers and parents.

Dr Cobus van Breda, Programme Director of the Family Math and Family Science Project, says that judging by the feedback from teachers, it is evident that the programme is growing from strength to strength and that it is making a real difference in Mathematics and Science education in the early school years.

The UFS’s Internet Broadcast Project (IBP) has thus far received four awards for their successes. In this project, lessons in Mathematics, Accounting and Physical Science are broadcasted from the UFS’s South Campus through internet presentations to schools in rural areas.

“To date, the IBP catalogue contains over 2 000 video lessons and in 2013 alone, the 68 schools accessed and used these videos 69 305 times. The project has the potential to reach more than 40 000 learners and 1 765 teachers every week,” says Sarietjie Musgrave, Project Manager.

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