Alongside the right to health care, social security and food, access to water and sanitation is recognised as a basic human right. In an effort to ensure that this right is met in all corners of the globe, section C of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal 7 is to decrease the number of the people living without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015. As part of their contribution to achieving this goal, Monash South Africa, in support of the Department of Water and Sanitation, successfully co-hosted the 2014 National Youth Summit in Johannesburg from the 29th of June to the 4th of July.

The Summit brought together over a thousand learners and educators from different parts of the country to celebrate the involvement of young people in water conservation and management. Monash South Africa was invited to participate in this event and was represented by the Director of the Water Research Node, Professor Bimo Nkhata and Researcher, Ms Linda Downsborough. Funding from both Monash South Africa and the International Water Security Network enabled seven students from Master of Philosophy in Integrated Water Management, to participate in this event.

The theme for the year’s summit was “Youth moving South Africa forward”. Monash South Africa contributed and participated in the Career Expo, exhibition stand and the Out of School Youth Programme which involved Professor Bimo Nkhata delivering a keynote address on integrating Environmental Education into the youth water implementation plan.  A special motivational session was also arranged for Monash South Africa students to interact with all the bursary winners at a Gala Dinner event.

“Increasingly, evidence suggests that freshwater ecosystems are the most threatened in the world, more so than marine and terrestrial ecosystems. At Monash South Africa we prepare future leaders in integrated water management, equipped with skills for adopting innovative solutions to local, regional, national and international water resource issues,” said Monash South Africa Water Node Researcher, Linda Downsborough.

The summit also provided an opportunity for the students and academics to interact with key players in the water sector, including the Department of Water and Sanitation, representatives of various water utilities as well as hundreds of learners and educators. Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation, Pam Tshwete, thanked Monash South Africa for working closely with her department and for being a key partner in hosting the event.

Over the course of the week, Monash South Africa staff and students marched through the streets of Boksburg advocating water conservation, interacted with learners at the career expo and exhibition stand and participated in academic learning sessions.  The special motivational session that was held for the bursary winners was a huge success as students established a forum for continued communication with the learners that are looking to further their studies at their respective universities.