comparing curves

Comparing Curves

Covid vs Sustainability

Our initial perception that the strict lockdown measures in March 2020 allowed nature to sigh with relief was well placed. Bird and insect life returned to previously uninhabited areas and the smog clouds over the big cities lifted and then disappeared altogether. Living nature seemed invigorated, seemingly as a result of less human impact due to lockdown.

The specific environmental improvements brought about by the forced economic shut down could be found in:

better air quality, with the reduction both of factory emissions and air and road travel,
cleaner beaches,
less noise, and
cleaner waterways in areas where boat traffic decreased, especially in cities like Venice, Stockholm and Sweden.
But, as the graph above shows, this initial declining impact on the environment suddenly reversed course and started ascending rapidly to the extent that it has now overtaken the Covid infection curve. WHY?

A substantial increase in personal protection equipment (PPE) waste,


a substantial increase in domestic waste,


a reduction in waste recycling.


Is one of the alarming statistics associated with PPE waste (which includes spent hand sanitizers and cleaning products) following the implementation of Covid health measures. Stated quantitively, 89 million masks and 76 million pairs of gloves are used and discarded globally each month according to an estimate of the World Health Organisation. And many have already landed on remote beaches, in rivers and landfill.

The increase in domestic waste is directly attributable to a rising demand for online shopping and take-away foods, which require additional, instantly obsolete packaging. Certain FMCG retailers and coffee shops who pre-covid accepted plastic bags and coffee cups from customers for refill (towards conservation efforts) stopped doing so subsequent to the lockdown announcement.

The fact that the recycling industry, including the important work of informal waste reclaimers, ground to a halt during lockdown, is the last leg in this eco triple whammy.

That is not where it ends however. Collateral environmental damage caused by lockdown includes an increase in deforestation to make provision for the rising demand for packaging together with an increase in illegal poaching in many marginal settings as a reaction to economic hardship occasioned by stagnant trade.

Do we need further reminding of the contamination to soil, rivers and the ocean caused by plastic breakdown, or marine species negatively affected by discarded plastics? Despite a fourth increase in the plastic bag levy since 2003, no discernible behavioural change has yet taken place.

As providers of wellbeing products and services and being conscious of their important role in giving effect to an ethical business ethos, spas and salons are increasingly asking how they can minimise their PPE waste impact.
Use re-usable PPE. They are just as safe as disposables if proper sanitizing practices are followed.
Purchase eco-friendly sanitizers free of nano-plastics. These tiny plastic particles are often found in hygiene and sanitation products and are what give these products their gel-like texture. Plastic has been found everywhere on earth – in the deepest parts of oceans, in the tissues of small organisms that form the basis of our food supply chain, in the fish that we eat and now with nano-plastics, even in the air that we breathe.
Use refillable containers for hand sanitizers.
Use bio-degradable containers for hand sanitizers.
Buy sanitizing chemicals in bulk and in returnable containers.
Dispose of used and contaminated PPE safely, as you would with any other hazardous waste.

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maintaining an excellent hygiene and sanitation regime in a spa or beauty salon is one of the very first things that is impressed on prospective spa owners and aspiring students.

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a case for certification

A Case for Certification

As consumers’ demand for green and sustainable products and services grow, so do the incidents of greenwashing. These are environmental claims by businesses about their products or services that are misleading, confusing or simply irrelevant. Members of the public simply no longer trust sustainability related marketing claims. Many also view promotions which purport to support the environment as a one time opportunity to win publicity for the business concerned. The spa and wellness industry is no exception to this heightened level of sceptism and increasingly relies on third party certification of their products. Such certification set clear standards and provide complete transparency, allowing consumers to search for products with confidence that the products are what they say they are.

A number of organic and natural certification agencies already operate worldwide and many of them have become well-known as associated with local and imported spa brands in South Africa. The best known certification programs include:

the Soil Association (United Kingdom)

BDIH (Germany)

USDA (United States of America)


Ecocert (France)

Until recently, the certification agencies have only certified spa products and not spa services or even the spa business as a whole.

There are sustainable certification programs available to businesses in the hospitality trade, but these have not been developed exclusively for spas and probably do not take account of the unique spa business model and spa processes. These programs include Green Globe and Fair Trade Tourism (FTT).

FTT endorses fair and responsible tourism practices in Southern Africa and certification is based on compliance with specific criteria centred on fair wages, fair working conditions, fair distribution of benefits, ethical business practices and respect for human rights, culture and the environment. An example of what FTT will look for in order to certify a spa, would be whether it approaches procurement in a way that supports the local community and small business suppliers of goods and services. Does the spa invest in the upliftment of its community by offering education on health and wellness? This could be in the form of workshops or teaching local residents about the possible commercial application of organically grown or locally manufactured cosmetic ingredients. Compliance with national labour standards is, of course, compulsory and appropriate human resources policies should be in place, particularly those on recruitment and selection, discipline and grievance, performance management, incentives and the like.

Green Globe audits and certifies the sustainability practices of travel and tourism establishments and also their supplier businesses. It has a global network of independent auditors and, in sub-Saharan Africa, partners with Heritage Environmental Management Company. Green Globe’s certification program was developed in line with the guidelines set by the Mohonk Agreement for international sustainable tourism certification programs. Some of the larger Green Globe certified properties in South Africa include Riverside Sun Resort, Sandton Sun Hotel, the Inter-Continental Sandton Towers, Cape Grace Hotel and Beacon Island Resort. Most of these properties received top awards for their excellence in responsible tourism, in the categories ranging from energy conservation, water and waste management and social involvement. These awards to local businesses demonstrate not only that the requirement for certification extends to South Africa as much as elsewhere, but also that we have the expertise and environment to bring the best in wellness to the international tourism market.

Consumers are expecting spas and their wellness partners to raise the bar and so they should commit, in a transparent way, to sustainable business practices through third party certification. It is through this commitment that the spa will make a real and lasting investment in its business.

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maintaining an excellent hygiene and sanitation regime in a spa or beauty salon is one of the very first things that is impressed on prospective spa owners and aspiring students.

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the conscious kitchen

The Conscious Kitchen

To fully appreciate the process of nourishment requires a different perspective and broader philosophy. While eating a meal is a biological inevitability, the experience of eating really goes much further.

“Eating is also a process of physical, emotional and spiritual nourishment”. Green Spa Guide

The positive energy derived from the focus on eating, food, nourishment and contentment should not be underestimated in its contribution to holistic wellness. Seeing and appreciating a beautifully formed, colourful fruit, universally perfect yet simple in its appearance, tends to alter one’s perception of food and nourishment. Food contains and radiates life force and when consumed, transfers it into the body.

The global increase in fast foods and fast eating habits has had the combined effect of individual tastes being standardized and thousands of foods and flavours gradually disappearing. Moreover, an appreciation of food was no longer part of the eating experience. The realisation of these truths gave rise to the creation of the Slow Food Movement in Italy in 1986.

The philosophy of the Slow Food Movement is that food should be


in being tasty, flavoursome, fresh and capable of stimulating and satisfying the senses.


in being produced without straining the earth resources, its ecosystems and its environments and without harming human health and


meaning fair reward for all concerned, from production to distribution to consumption.

The Slow Food Movement is committed to:

protecting traditional and sustainable quality foods and their primary ingredients and also
conserving their methods of cultivation.

Subscribers to the slow food way of life, which in a broader sense means eating seasonal foods that are sourced locally and grown organically, quickly become aware of the health benefits associated with this philosophy. Fruits and vegetables produced in this way not only taste better and cost less than imported foods, but they are generally more nutritious.

So how does this apply to the spa kitchen?

Applying Slow Food principles,
purchasing seasonal meal ingredients that are locally produced and
the presentation of spa meals that are flavoursome and stimulate the senses, promote and strengthen wellness, harmony and positive energy.
A lot can also be said for the promotion of the vegetarian spa menu. Nutritionally, vegetables, diary, eggs and the combination of rice and lentils (a favourite in Indian and Malay cultures) have sufficient complex proteins to replace meat. Economically, the amount of meat that may be derived from a single animal and the number of people that it would feed is much less compared to the large volume of grain and maize that is consumed by that animal, which could otherwise have provided a meal to many more people, at a much lower production price.

Additionally, the production of meat products is very energy, water and resource intensive. One sometimes forgets that the process involves the production, manufacturing and processing of animal feeds and their transport to feedlots for consumption, the transportation of animals to abattoirs, and then the processing, packaging and transportation of the meat to the consumer. Many of the processes described above also give rise to a significant amount of waste, particularly when compared with the production of fruit and vegetables, and also pollution, caused by the water run-off of slaughter houses en meat processing plants into our water courses.

The quality of the meat that is produced for consumption is also becoming more questionable, purely because of rising demand and the struggle to keep up, which often force farmers to resort to unhealthy industrial farming processes and could include the use of hormones, antibiotics and unhealthy feeding practices for fattening purposes.

Cultivate a sense of pride in food preparation in the spa kitchen by encouraging staff to prepare meals in comfortable clothing and to approach the preparation process with goodness and respect. (Many cultures believe that the consciousness of the person preparing a meal, may result in that energy being reflected onto the person eating it.)

Suggest to Spa guests to enjoy their meal in silence, to eat slowly and attentively and to focus on the taste of each item of food.

“Sharing a meal is a gesture of gratitude and regulates self gratification. The concept of sharing extends to the free kitchen, where food is prepared and given to people who need it.”

All these positive activities transform a simple act of nourishment into a holistic wellness experience.

hi- green hygiene

maintaining an excellent hygiene and sanitation regime in a spa or beauty salon is one of the very first things that is impressed on prospective spa owners and aspiring students.

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+27 83 630 7730


hi- green hygiene

Hi- Green Hygiene

Maintaining an excellent hygiene and sanitation regime in a spa or beauty salon is one of the very first things that is impressed on prospective spa owners and aspiring students.

The wellness industry has, after all, as its very essence, the promotion of practices that will prevent our guests from becoming unwell or sick in the first place.

As we know, hygienic and sanitation treatment of spa equipment, instruments, sheets, towels etc. are carried out to remove dirt, dust and other substances that may harbour bacteria and organisms from proliferating and causing disease. Cleaning may be performed manually through the mechanical action of removing dirt and by using detergents to act chemically to bind greasy substances with water and to disinfect and eliminate harmful micro-organisms. These processes are appreciated and applied diligently.

The question is, “are the chemicals that are employed to disinfect and clean not causing more harm both to our guests and the environment than the good that they are intended to produce?”

The fear of disease outbreak has caused manufacturers to include anti-bacterials into a wide range of products that did not used to have them. Many of these ingredients are harsh chemicals that introduce toxic substances to our skin through contact, our respiratory system through inhalation and our environment through chemically laden water run-off. In addition, the anti-bacterials in detergents and other cleaning products contribute to the proliferation of super-bugs and anti-biotic resistant germs.

Green cleaning involves the use of substances that are safe in the long run and also effective in maintaining the high standards that a spa should subscribe to. See the schedule below for ingredients in detergents that should be avoided as far as possible.

The transition from harsh cleaning chemicals to natural solutions is probably one of the most challenging to do successfully.

While most of the green cleaning preparations do not contain petrochemicals or sulphates, parabens or phosphates, many are designed for conventional domestic use and are therefore not always formulated to deal with the particular demands of the spa industry. The extensive use of vegetable oils and plant materials may cause stains on linen, towels or other fabrics used during the therapy process. These stains are notoriously difficult to remove.

Nevertheless, there are many green cleaning and laundry solutions (even locally manufactured) to choose from, ranging from a variety of formulations that include plant ingredients to mechanical washballs, ceramic balls and magnets. Other cleaning preparations, such as natural window and surface cleaning solutions are also fairly widely available and these are generally effective. The added benefits of green cleaning products are that they are often bio-degradable and reduce waste.

Spas have to go through a period of actual testing of different solutions depending on the peculiar situation and products used. Often by employing simple traditional cleaning techniques, the best results are found. Diluted vinegar cleans windows just as effectively as many branded window cleaners. Use lemons to shine chrome taps and remove carpet stains caused by wine or grass. Soda water is effective in removing coffee stains. It is also well known that slices of lemon, celery or vinegar removes bad odours. A mixture of one cup of water and one teaspoon of tea tree oil removes musty smells by spraying affected areas. There are many similar examples to explore.

Choose products that are:

  • bio-degradable,
  • fragrance free,
  • low-suds (there is less foam and consequently a reduction in energy and water use),
  • plant based,
  • concentrated (because smaller amounts are required, there is less packaging and consequently less waste) and
  •  sustainably packaged.

Also look out for products that can be refilled.

Start by making a list of all the cleaning products used in your spa business and then create green cleaning kits for all the cleaning staff, who will themselves stand to benefit much from the safer products.

The “dirty dozen” in cleaning ingredients.

This list consists of 4 main categories: anti-bacterials; products absorbed by skin; products that give off fumes/compounds; and those that are toxic to the environment.

Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs).

These chemicals can break down into toxic substances that can act as hormone disrupters, potentially threatening the reproductive capacity of fish, birds, and mammals. Found in many cleaning products, especially detergents, stain removers, citrus cleaners, and disinfectants.


Some antibacterial ingredients may cause skin and eye irritation, and certain types, such as triclosan, may contribute to the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Antibacterial household cleaners won’t keep you safe. Most infections are caused by viruses, not bacteria. Found in a variety of household cleaners; many products that carry the “antibacterial” label are actually disinfectants (see disinfectants below).


Poisonous when swallowed, extremely irritating to respiratory passages when inhaled; can burn skin on contact. Found in floor, bathroom, tile, and glass cleaners.

Butyl cellosolve (also known as butyl glycol, ethylene glycol, monobutyl).

Poisonous when swallowed and a lung tissue irritant. Found in glass cleaners and all-purpose cleaners.

Chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite).

Extremely irritating to the lungs and eyes. Sold by itself and found in a variety of household cleaners.


Can irritate the skin. Found in air fresheners.

Diethanolamine (DEA) & triethanolamine (TEA).

These ingredients can produce carcinogenic compounds. Found in sudsing products, including detergents and cleaners.


This is a catchall term for a variety of active ingredients, including chlorine bleach, alcohol, quaternary compounds, and pine oil and ethyl alcohol. They are regulated by the EPA as pesticides and all have some health effects. Most can also cause problems in waterways by killing helpful bacteria. Found in a variety of household cleaners; many products that carry the “antibacterial” label are also disinfectants.


May cause water eyes and respiratory tract irritation. Found in a variety of cleaners and air fresheners.

Hydrochloric acid.

Can severely burn skin, irritate eyes and respiratory tract. Found in toilet bowl cleaners.


Can cause headaches, nausea, and central-nervous-system symptoms with overexposure. Found in furniture and floor polish and glass cleaners.

Petroleum-based ingredients.

Many ingredients are derived from petroleum, including some of those above such as naptha, and they’re commonly found in many cleaning products as surfactants. Other toxic ingredients derived from petroleum, including formaldehyde, can also be present at trace levels in cleaning products. Found in a variety of household cleaners.


Can reach waterways and contribute to the overgrowth of algae and aquatic weeds, which can kill off fish populations and other aquatic life. Found in automatic dishwasher detergents and some laundry detergents.

Sodium hydroxide (lye).

Corrosive and extremely irritating to eyes, nose, and throat and can burn those tissues on contact. Found in drain, metal, and oven cleaners.

Sodium lauryl sulfate.

Used in most detergent products that foam, a common skin irritant. Animals exposed to SLS experienced eye damage, depression, labored breathing, diarrhea, severe skin irritation and even death.

Sulfuric acid.

Can severely damage eyes, lungs, and skin. Found in drain cleaners.

hi- green hygiene

maintaining an excellent hygiene and sanitation regime in a spa or beauty salon is one of the very first things that is impressed on prospective spa owners and aspiring students.

read more


+27 83 630 7730


what makes for a well spa indoor space?

What makes for a well spa indoor space?

When we visit our favourite spa our expectation of a joyful and rejuvenating experience does not lie exclusively in the treatments that we have booked. We also look for a spa environment that will contribute to our wellbeing, that offers comfort , stimulates our senses and that is absent from any harmful materials.

The term indoor environment quality mostly comes up when buildings are assessed for green certification, but considering the importance of wellbeing in the spa industry as a whole, the term should become part of everyday spa parlance. A good indoor environment enhances the health and wellbeing of those who work and receive treatments in a spa. Sick building syndrome is a well known phenomenon and it results primarily from poor indoor air quality.

The three principle issues that are considered and which target both our comfort- and health factors in a spa building are the air quality, the comfort of the spa occupants and hazardous materials. Let’s unpack these elements.

It is important that as much fresh air as possible is present in order to counteract the build-up of indoor pollutants by providing, preferably, a naturally ventilated environment. The fresh air should also be available to everyone in the building and not just those persons who are positioned adjacent to windows. This is achieved through a proper ventilation system and good design. In buildings with high occupancy levels, the installation of carbon dioxide monitors in strategic places that set off visual or aural alarms if the carbon dioxide levels rise above a certain acceptable standard, can be useful.

Vygenhoek Organic Spa

Logic dictates that the greater the comfort levels of spa users in a spa, the higher its guest turnover and overall staff retention. There are various factors that come into play in determining our comfort levels, with natural light probably the most important.

“Natural light helps regulate the body’s natural rhythms, keeping the body attuned with the exterior environment and contributing to overall well-being.” Green Spa Guide

In instances where the light in the spa must be provided artificially, a good design-plan will ensure that there is not excessive light.

While the importance of natural light cannot be overstated, the discomfort of glare from sunlight should at the same time be prevented with appropriate diffusers, shading and overall good design practices.

Vygenhoek Organic Spa

A comfort factor that ties in closely with the presence of natural light is the availability of external views. This is very important and irrespective of the attractiveness of the views (within reason), the emphasis must be to establish a visual connection between the external and internal environments. Many current spa designs regrettably do not allow for external views since privacy is the primary requirement. There are, however, many ways in which appropriate external views can be made available without sacrificing guest privacy.

An acceptable thermal comfort level goes without saying and considering that this is already of great importance to the success of a spa, most spas already use heating and cooling products with variable thermal control. It is, however, important for staff to be able to regulate temperature independently in separate areas, in recognition of the differences in individual comfort requirements, as opposed to having a single, central thermal control system. Simply being in a position to open and close windows would in many instances contribute substantially to this end.

A spa building should not incorporate any materials which by their nature could constitute a health hazard or lead to discomfort. Products made from, or containing

lead (quite often in paints) or
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB’s-commonly found in flourescent light fixtures, electric transformers etc)
should be eliminated altogether. Interior finishing should specifically be absent of products with high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are normally found in paints, adhesives, sealants, carpets and synthetic flooring. Symptoms of continued exposure to the emissions of VOCs caused by some of the products indicated above include eye, nose and skin irritation and headaches.

Curiously, it is not common knowledge that photocopying and printing machines can produce substantial VOC emissions, particularly as the machines age. Ozone (O3), which is an unstable form of oxygen and a highly toxic gas, is sometimes also produced by the ultraviolet emissions from the photocopier lamps. These machine types should therefore be placed together in single spaces with sufficient exhaust facilities to allow the pollutants to vent to the outside of the building. This of course brings with it atmospheric pollution associated with these emissions, albeit then in an environment where they can be readily assimilated and broken down.

Appropriate humidity levels should be maintained in every spa, particularly where high humidity levels are caused by the large number of hydro treatment facilities on offer. High humidity levels for extended periods promote the growth of mould and fungi and can cause allergies and other illnesses. Good control of humidity is often easily achieved in naturally ventilated areas.

Emphatically, and lastly, smoking should be prohibited in any spa area, indoor or out!

hi- green hygiene

maintaining an excellent hygiene and sanitation regime in a spa or beauty salon is one of the very first things that is impressed on prospective spa owners and aspiring students.

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+27 83 630 7730


treading lightly

Treading Lightly

We often read about our carbon footprint, or that of a business or product. How is a carbon footprint measured, and what does this mean for spas?

A carbon footprint is a practical measure of the impact that particular activities have on the environment and, in particular, on climate change. It also relates to the generation of greenhouse gases which in effect insulate our planet (as in a green house) and prevents heat from escaping into the outer atmosphere, thereby gradually heating the surface of the planet further. This increasing surface temperature is playing havoc with global climatic conditions, in particular causing ice caps and glaciers to melt, increased ocean temperatures and various severe weather anomalies.

Greenhouse gases are produced largely by industrial activity, but their prevalence also echo modern human activities. Electricity generation, through the burning of fossil fuels, is perhaps one of the biggest culprits, followed closely by exhaust emissions from millions of internal combustion engines in trucks, aircraft, motor cars, ie the whole transportation industry. Other industrial processes that may seem insignificant on a local scale, but nonetheless contribute significantly to greenhouse gas output into the atmosphere, include manufacturing, agriculture, storage, recycling and waste disposal.


A carbon footprint is expressed in equivalent tons of either Carbon or CO2 (1000kg of CO2 equals 270kg of Carbon) and would typically be the release in weight of either substance into the atmosphere, having been released as a solid from the earth.

Almost any choice made in business today, will impose a Green Dilemma, that of the business itself increasing its carbon footprint vs. the “greenness” (if at all) of the product which that business sells.

Consider a sustainable spa situated in a remote country location.

Whilst the building and products offered by it may be substantially green, a significant portion of these benefits is negated by the distances that guests are required to travel to enjoy the spa experience. The same holds true for organic produce imported from foreign countries and over large distances.

There are a number of carbon calculators available that will assist a spa business in determining its carbon footprint.

One was developed locally by Food and Trees for Africa and based on the Global Greenhouse Gas Reporting Protocol, which calculates the CO2 emitted by any business process or travel method and then assigns the number of trees that should be planted to offset that amount of Carbon. These calculators are useful tools to ascertain those aspects of the spa business that give rise to the highest emission of greenhouse gases. By planting trees to offset Carbon emissions, a substantial benefit is being realized, but the principle aim should always be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the first place.

Here are a few carbon reducing tips for spas to start with the process.

Go local

We have a wonderfully diverse country that offers beautiful unique products. Support your local communities and local practices. Remember that imported products have, because of the transport and sometimes also additional packaging associated with them, a much larger carbon footprint than products produced and supplied to local areas.

Travel lightly

Together with other transport systems, motor vehicles themselves contribute significantly to global warming, even those who are yet to travel their first kilometer. A high amount of energy is required to build cars and even more to establish the infrastructure and services necessary to maintain them. Once in operation much of our air pollution can be attributed to them. Promote alternative transport methods such as mass transport, walking and cycling with your spa staff and guests. Encourage them by, for example, placing cycle-friendly structures close to the entrance with car parking further away. (Remember that cyclists will require the use of shower facilities upon their arrival). Also allocate the most attractive parking bays to fuel efficient cars and motor cycles (electric motor cycles are already available on the South African market).

Buy good quality

Good quality products last longer and do not end up as waste. Processing waste is energy demanding and often gives rise to harmful gas emissions.

Grow your own

Apart from the delight in offering veggies from your spa garden to guests, you can guarantee them that they will eat food produced without industrial processes. Start small with herb seedlings from your local nursery in pots that the spa chef can keep near the kitchen and expand as confidence grows.

Reduce meat in spa meals

The production of meat products is very energy, water and resource intensive. One sometimes forgets that the process involves the production, manufacturing and processing of animal feeds and their transport to feedlots for consumption, the transportation of animals to abattoirs, and then the processing, packaging and transportation of the meat products to the consumer. These processes also give rise to a significant amount of waste, particularly when compared with the production of fruit and vegetables, and also pollution.

Reduce and recycle spa waste

The energy used to produce products that are discarded, in addition to the methane given off in landfill sites are significant contributors to our carbon footprint. Reduce consumption by buying in bulk and avoiding products with excessive packaging, which require additional energy to manufacture, transport and then dispose of. Recycling uses less energy and produces less pollution than making things from new. For example, recycling a glass bottle saves 0.5kg of carbon compared to making a brand new one. Composting and recycling when possible can reduce the carbon emitted due to disposal of spa waste by 40%.

hi- green hygiene

maintaining an excellent hygiene and sanitation regime in a spa or beauty salon is one of the very first things that is impressed on prospective spa owners and aspiring students.

read more


+27 83 630 7730