A sports pitch that improves health and class attendance of pupils
Football fields installed at schools in South Africa can store and filter rainwater and teachers have noticed improvements in health and class attendance of pupils
By Kim Harrisberg
JOHANNESBURG – Sibusiso Mohlapi, a math and science teacher at Boshoek Primary School in South Africa’s North West province, often had empty seats in his classroom when children stayed home sick with diarrhea, headaches and stomach cramps.
But when a football field that stores and filters rainwater was installed at the school in 2015, he noticed that the health and class attendance of his pupils improved.
“We are struggling in South Africa with clean water,” said Mohlapi, standing amid a vegetable patch he grows with the filtered water. “This was a lesson to me that water and education are linked.”
Access to water is a hot topic in South Africa – and a growing number of countries hit by climate change, burgeoning populations and poor governance – as drought last year triggered warnings that Cape Town’s taps could run dry.
The World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa (WWF) estimates that 14 million South Africans lack access to decent sanitation – in a country with 49 centimeters annual average rainfall, less than half the global average.
As a result, the community surrounding Boshoek Primary School is used to water cuts.
“We mainly access our water through boreholes,” said Mohlapi. But during times of poor rainfall, underground aquifers are not as full, and even boreholes can run dry. “Before this field was just an empty space. Imagine if a school didn’t have water. Would we even have an education? Definitely not,” Mohlapi told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
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