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University of Pretoria team wins National University challenge

The competition with the theme, “A better life for people in informal settlements,” challenged students to come up with an innovative and creative proposal to make a positive impact in the community. The competition was open to all South African higher education institutions

The business case of the five UP students, Kobus Opperman, Marcia Sharp, TeeJay  Kwari,  Pontsho Mathebula en Thabane Mkhwebane revolved around the construction of sustainable low-rise apartment blocks on land newly allocated to destitute squatters.

The UP team came up with a phased development:  “We suggest building only foundations (slabs) rather than complete houses during phase 1. These foundations will then be in place for a one-year period. Each plot of land will have access to one tap and a ventilated improved pit latrine. People would occupy those foundations after they have put their existing housing structures over the foundations”, says Thabane Mkhwebane.

It is possible to build 10 foundations for the price of every house (foundations are usually 10% of the cost of a house), thus more households will have a dry base to sleep upon in the same amount or shorter amount of time.

“The benefit of phase 1 is that people will be able to sleep ‘dry’ and will also be protected against run-away fires.  They will have access to a ventilated improved pit latrine while waiting for phase two to get from the ground, continued Kobus Opperman.

Phase 2 will follow immediately after phase 1. In this phase the walls, roofing as well as the toilets will be constructed.
The UP students who participated in the Sanlam Inter-University Creativity for Progress Challenge are all part of a leadership programme at UP who meet regularly to discuss issues like leadership and to work on social responsibility projects identified by them. The programme is called the Top Junior and Senior Leadership Development Programme.

Dr Rina Wilken, Co-ordinator:  Special Projects in the Department of Student Affairs, UP, explains, “The Tuks Top Junior and Senior Leadership Development Programme is an out-of-class leadership development programme at the University of Pretoria. The whole idea behind this program is to engage students in active learning, to develop them as future leaders and to involve them in situations where they are confronted with real life experiences. “

Each of UP’s nine faculties identify a maximum of eight students to become part of this programme on campus every year.  The programme was established in 2005.

The students who took part in the Sanlam competition, Kobus Opperman (Medicine), Marcia Sharp (Education), TeeJay Kwari (Actuarial Sciences),  Pontsho Mathebula (Bcomm Economics) and Thabane Mkhwebane (Theology), decided to enter at one of the leadership development programme’ meetings.

The students and the University received a money prize.

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