A schoolgirl has developed a substance to help curb shack fires
Addressing the problem of fire outbreaks in informal settlements, Gabriella Mogale has created a twofold solution to curbing burns – and she’s only 17, writes Design Indaba.
It has been reported that, on average, in SA over the last five years there were 10 shack fires a day, with someone dying in one of these blazes every other day. (Shutterstock)
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After fires wreaked havoc in Knysna and Plettenberg Bay in June, 17-year-old Gabriella Mogale was inspired to develope a ground-breaking invention that can help prevent the spread of devastating shack fires.

A major concern for South Africans living in townships is the rapid spread of fire as the flames lash out from one shack to ignite dozens of others.

Mogale, a matric pupil from Welkom, decided to tackle this problem for a school project. She went on to enter her resulting discovery into the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists and, much to her delight, won a gold medal. Her invention has made headlines across the country.

Judges were so impressed with the young innovator’s efforts that she was told to return to this year’s expo once she had fine-tuned her work – something she fully intends doing.

It only took her a month to complete the project – from its conception all the way through to creating a small shack on which to test whether her idea would work.

Mogale explained that her invention‚ still in its early stages, is an improvement on something that already exists.

It’s all about creating insulation, which would create a barrier between the corrugated iron and the inside and outside of the shack‚ she explains.

For the interior, a mixture of carefully considered, recyclable substances that discourage cold from entering and help prevent its dwellers from falling ill with pneumonia would be painted on to the corrugated iron typically found on the inside of shacks.

A second mixture would be applied to the shack’s exterior; made from cement, it would make the structure fire-retardant.

Mogale said she wanted to make an improvement in the lives of people in difficult circumstances.

“You never think you would create or do something great until you do it,” she says of her inspired project. “And having come from a disadvantaged background, I have always wanted to be that person who is going to change the lives of someone who was like me.”

Asked about expense‚ Mogale said: “It is something that people can make themselves.

“The outside [which contains the cement mixture] may be a bit costly but it’s still affordable and the inside would contain just recycled material.”

  • Additional reporting from TimesLive and HeraldLive
  • This article first appeared on designindaba.com

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