In celebration of Nelson Mandela Day, the Nelson Mandela Foundation has prioritised school sanitation this year.
Yase Godlo, director of Mandela Day and special projects, told City Press that the foundation was mobilising corporate and other stakeholders to achieve safety, hygiene and dignity for pupils.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has helped prototype developers test sanitation systems in a variety of contexts and quantified the performance of these systems in laboratories, as well as partnered with communities to find solutions to the greater sanitation issue.
“One of the reasons developed countries find it so difficult to change their sanitation is that they have invested heavily in financial resources and infrastructure, but sitting in Africa, in a situation where there is no infrastructure, we have an opportunity to do things differently,’ said professor Chris Buckley, head of UKZN’s Pollution Research Group (PRG), in an article published on the university website.
PRG also works with other disciplines at UKZN, including engineering, development studies, geography, microbiology, life sciences, public health and soil science.
This multidisciplinary approach, comprising more than just technology, enables the research centre to conduct exceptional research that approaches sanitation with a holistic perspective to tackle far-reaching, interconnected challenges linked to poor sanitation.
The long-term aspiration of the project is for everyone to have access to a safe and culturally acceptable sanitation system with a positive environment, and that nutrients will be safely recycled.
Buckley says they are close to an acceptable and affordable system for learners, possibly within the next five years. He goes on to say that the issue with conventional sewage treatment is that it uses a lot of energy and wastes water.
When reviewing global trends he found that they were comprised of urbanisation, population growth and climate change, and that water resources were being used for water supply, food and energy security. He said the interlinking of these components was what was needed when making choices related to sanitation.
Godlo has encouraged stakeholders to engage schools to identify challenges and apply solutions that schools and the department of basic education can manage and sustain.