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12 September 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Arbor tree plant
To celebrate National Arbor Week the University of the Free State has embarked on a drive to plant 150 trees during the month of September

If you’ve wondered whether Arbor Month was important, you only have to look at the destruction and long-term damage that deforestation causes to the environment and the world’s inhabitants. To observe National Arbor Month, the University of the Free State’s has (UFS) kick-started a drive to plant 150 trees during the month of September.

To launch this initiative, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, alongside members of the rectorate, assisted the University Estates team in planting the first 10 of 100 trees at the Bloemfontein Campus on Wednesday 4 September 2019. A total of 50 trees will be planted on the Qwaqwa Campus.

Towards a sustainable future

“We have gone through periods of drought in the Free State that have severely impacted not only the plants but the trees on our campuses. The idea is to emphasise sustainability, and as a university, we believe that sustainability is important. As an education institution, we have to look at the generations that are still to come to our campuses,” said Prof Petersen.

He urged the Kovsie community to ensure that all practices across the campuses are linked to global standards of sustainability. “As we develop over the next couple of months and years, we will get much closer alignment between what we are doing as a university and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Drought-resistant man-made forests

Clusters of mini forests across the campuses will be created with a variety of trees including the karee, white karee, white stinkwood, and wild olive. These indigenous trees can adapt well to different soils including those that are poorly drained.

Celebrating Arbor Week

This year’s campaign was held under the theme Forests and Sustainable Cities. As part of the celebration, University Estates made a commitment to the environment by embarking on the green initiative which includes other project such as the upgrade of Red Square on the Bloemfontein Campus.

News Archive

UFS doctors fight childhood cancer
2016-09-02

Description: Childhood cancer  Tags: Childhood cancer

Prof David Stones and Dr Jan du Plessis of the
University of Free State’s paediatric oncology ward
are helping little lives, one patient at a time.
Photo: Nonsindiso Qwabe

Of 23 paediatric oncology specialists nationally, Prof David Stones and Dr Jan du Plessis of the University of Free State are the only ones in the province.

Committed to giving holistic care to their patients, the two doctors specialise in all types of childhood cancers, the most common being leukaemia, brain tumour, and nephroblastoma.

They describe the childhood malignancy as a lethal disease, unpredictability being its harshest trait. “With cancer, you can just never know. It precipitates and multiplies, and leads to the failure of other organs. You can just always hope, and keep trying,” said Du Plessis.

The paediatric oncology unit of the Universitas Academic Hospital, their unit, is the liveliest floor in the entire building. It is also the third busiest in South Africa, serving a demographic that spans the Free State and Northern Cape, as well as parts of North West, Eastern Cape and Lesotho.

Each year, the unit receives more than 100 new childhood cancer patients. In 2015, the unit had 113 newly diagnosed patients, an increase from 93 in 2014.

Lack of knowledge poses a serious challenge
According to the two experts, the lack of insight and awareness of the disease remain a big challenge to fighting it. “It is frustrating. Parents and family members don’t know anything about it. Nurses and doctors aren’t always clinically trained to pick up the early warning signs. By the time a diagnosis is made, life and death is on a 50% margin,” Stones said.

Poverty, a lack of resources, overcrowding and a range of health issues are other factors that have a profound effect on the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

Making a contribution that will last
With a desire to see an improvement on life outcomes in the health sector, the team is focusing on educating the country’s doctors of tomorrow. Their unit is the only one in the country that actively involves medical students in an oncology unit, giving them practical experience and exposure to the individual cases each patient presents. They have also produced a substantial amount of research literature on childhood malignancies in South Africa as a developing country.

Driven by passion to see a better South Africa
The doctors are passionate about the work they do, and remain hopeful there will be a change in the incidence of childhood cancer   not just in decreased levels of the disease, but also in the overall state of well-being of young South Africans.

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