Slow shift in mindset but coal still rules
CURRICULUMS are slowly changing at universities as the country moves from coal energy to renewable energy, but the shift is not entirely possible due to the government’s dependency on coal energy.
UP Department of Mining Engineering Head Ronny Webber said: “Renewable energy is still in the beginning phases of being completely efficient and is very expensive compared to coal mining. Coal mining is still the cheapest energy and don't expect this to change for the next 50-100 years.”
He said students who are studying coal energy are made aware of sustainable energy and its challenges. Universities in the post-graduate environment should be looking into renewable energy a lot more at the moment although the basics of coal mining must be taught.
University of Pretoria mechanical and aeronautical engineering head JP Meyer said: “There have been changes within the curriculums at tertiary institutions. However, the fundamentals have remained the same. The dynamics of the steam engine and the thermodynamics of a nuclear power plant are still the same currently.
“The changes that were made allowed us to ask specific questions to students which are more relevant to renewable energy compared to previous years. Previously, we would focus more on coal energy because that was the only way electricity was being generated in South Africa.”
He said the focus had been developed more in terms of renewable energy, largely due to people's awareness of the energy crisis.
Webber said: “Renewables is the route where many are moving to but due to the country’s dependency on coal energy, it is a problem at this stage because of the length of time needed to shift to renewable energy.”
Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Michael Wolf said: “We need to push for environmental literacy courses on all educational levels. Unfortunately, large parts of our population are unaware of the most basic interactions between us humans and our environment.
“They lack environmental literacy. Teaching environmental literacy from as early as primary school is an absolute necessity.”