Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Years
2017 2018 2019 2020
Previous Archive
17 April 2019 | Story Leonie Bolleurs
Science ambassadors
Friends Tekano Mbonani and Chaka Mofokeng are pursuing graduate degrees in respectively Physics at the University of the Free State (UFS) and Astronomy at the University of the Western Cape. The two got together and decided to reach out to the high school, Leseding Technical Secondary School, where they came from.

It was a full house as more than 120 learners packed the hall at the Leseding Technical Secondary School in the Free State, where two young Astronomy researchers had come home to tell their younger peers about their studies and career prospects across South Africa.

Chaka Mofokeng and Tekano Mbonani are both former learners at the high school. Currently pursuing graduate degrees – for Mbonani in Physics at the University of the Free State (UFS), and for Mofokeng in Astronomy at the University of the Western Cape – the two friends got together and decided to reach out to the high school where they came from.

The event took place in January before schoolwork, tests, and exam preparations are occupying learners’ minds, inviting them to think about the big picture – the future, and how to be part of it. This is timely, because in July last year, the MeerKAT radio telescope was inaugurated in the Karoo. The MeerKAT is the first step to the international SKA telescope project, but it is already one of the best radio telescopes in the world and has placed South Africa firmly on the world map of radio astronomy and engineering.

Building a bridge
“This project enables us to build a bridge between secondary and tertiary institutions. Currently focused on senior secondary students, we aim to promote science through outreach events and activities. Using science and technology-based activities and events, such as stargazing at an observatory or exploring the universe in a planetarium, we want to attract these future secondary graduates. We also provide mentorship, hoping to help them improve their academic performance in matric,” said Mbonani.

For a whole morning, they spoke about their journeys, about science, about the skills that scientists acquire during their studies and all the opportunities such studies open up in an era where the 4th Industrial Revolution is predicted to reduce the number of jobs in many traditional professions. They addressed their peers in both English and Sesotho.

Astronomy in South Africa contributes to critical-skills development. Investing in the MeerKAT, for example, meant that over a thousand bursaries were made available through the SKA South Africa Human Capacity Development programme. Young scientists like Mofokeng and Mbonani have the opportunity to be part of MeerKAT science projects through their studies, using machine learning and other skills that are high in demand in today’s world. This was one of the messages they brought home.

Gaining new skills

“As an Astronomy research student, I have gained skills such as data analysis, mathematical modelling, communication and writing, programming, and teamwork, among others. These are requirements for most companies and institutions. With the unfolding of the 4th Industrial Revolution, such skills sets make young and aspiring scientists the perfect candidates for making the most of future opportunities,” reflected Mofokeng.

Most of the learners said they have never attended a science-outreach event. They were inspired by the young scientists’ stories and nearly half of them said they could see themselves pursuing a career in science. The learners also expressed a strong interest in more events of this kind, as well as mentorship during Grades 11 and 12 from peers at university. They asked about the salaries earned by astronomers, how long the studies take, and where astronomers are working in South Africa.

This initiative, started by two bright young scientists, hopefully marks the beginning of many more events of this kind. Mofokeng and Mbonani are already planning what to do on their next trip home.

News Archive

UFS hosts sign language workshop to educate parents
2017-05-22

Description: Sign language workshop to educate parents Tags: Sign language workshop to educate parents

Back row; from left; John Keitsemore from
Bartimea School for the Deaf; Philip Cook,
the headmaster at De la Bat School for the
Deaf in Worcester; Jeannie Cook, De la Bat School
for the Deaf; front, from left; Marisa Vermeulen, mother
of two deaf children and teacher at Bartimea
School for the Deaf in Thaba Nchu; Marianne Kühn,
audiologist, and Susan Lombaard, acting Head of the
Department of South African Sign Language.
Photo: Rulanzen Martin

“Ninety percent of deaf children are born into hearing families. When parents first receive the news, they are shocked, angry and confused,” says Susan Lombaard, Acting head of the Department of South African Sign Language at the University of the Free State (UFS).

The department hosted a workshop, “Early intervention options for the child with a hearing loss”, on Friday 12 May 2017 on the Bloemfontein Campus. “It is the first time a sign language workshop of this kind was hosted by the Department of South African Sign Language at the UFS,” says Lombaard, who facilitated the workshop. They hope to make it an annual event.

Parents of deaf children do not always know how they will communicate with their children or where the child must attend school. The workshop aimed to provide parents with the necessary information on different communication options and also touched on school placement.

Support group for parents established
A support group for parents was also established, the first of its kind in the province. It will provide much-needed support, information and guidance for parents of deaf children.

Some of the speakers at the workshop included Anri Esterhuizen, an audiologist; Marianne Kühn from the Carel du Toit Centre, Marisa Vermeulen, who is a mother of two deaf children, and Phillip Cook, the headmaster at De la Bat School for the Deaf in Worcester, in the Western Cape. Jeannie Cook, also a presenter, provided information on sign language acquisition of the small deaf child, which is done through creative play.

Professionals have responsibility
South African Sign Language is a language in its own right and is not international. “Sign language is a visual language with its own grammar and syntax different from spoken language,” Lombaard said.

There has been much controversy surrounding teaching deaf children to speak and teaching them to sign. “We as professionals have the responsibility to provide information on all options. This is to help the parent make informed decisions about communication and school placement.”

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.

Accept