Grahamstown students attend Water is Life 2016 conference in Netherlands

JULY 13, 2016

Grahamstown students, Jamie Macgregor and Matthew Owen, together with Jess Rushmere, Kelly Landon and Annie Schaefer, recently attended the 'Water is Life 2016' conference at Maurick College, Vught in Netherlands.

"The group did a contextual study of the socio-ecological risks that water shortages, as a result of our current drought, pose to the average South African household," described Cherié Wille at Communications Officer at the DSG group of schools.

"On the way to the Netherlands they spent one day in Paris and quickly realised that Europe had different challenges regarding water: Paris was flooding! The water in the Seine was meters away from breaking its banks in central Paris and the Louvre closed its doors and moved some of its art as a result of the flooding.

"The conference was very well organised by the hosts and the programme was jam packed!  There was a pickup at Schiphol airport, where the pupils were introduced to their host, Bo, who kept them informed and organised throughout the week. After travelling to Vught pupils were placed with their hosting families."

The conference kicked off with healthy and thought provoking debates such as 'who owned water'. There were around 40 schools attending and after the 'ice breaking' activities at a beautiful lake setting on the Monday, Tuesday was presentation day! The presentations went well and the group managed to deal with questions from the audience confidently and scored well with the judges. The day ended with a very long walk around Fort Izabella, which has major significance for the people of Vught, especially since its banks keep them dry.

"During the next two excursion days the students visited the University of Delft’s Engineering department and the 'Delta works' sea barriers, which protect the Dutch from flooding during severe storms. They also visited the floating gardens, forests and houses of Rotterdam and had some free time in Amsterdam," said Wille.

"After brief poster presentations on the Friday morning, they had the afternoon to relax. The conference concluded with fantastic cultural performances, a prize giving ceremony and a Great Gatsby style party which had a live brass band and dancers to entertain the conference participants.

"The pupils and teachers clearly enjoyed a well organised conference and lots of contacts were made. The hosting style structure was successful and pupils were immediately accepted and integrated into their peers’ 'Dutch' life. The opportunity to gain an understanding of what academic research consists of and what the international standard of their peers are, was hugely beneficial. This is certainly a conference which is well worth attending in the future."

Image: College pupils, Matthew Owen and James Macgregor in collaboration with DSG pupils Kelly Landon, Annie Schaefer and Jess Rushmere presenting at one of the workshops at the International Water Conference ‘Water is Life’ in Vught, Netherlands.