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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

OSM Camerata hosts concert as part of International Ictus Music Competition
2017-05-29

 

Description: OSM Camerata Ictus Music Competition Tags: OSM Camerata Ictus Music Competition
In 2015 the Odeion School of Music Camerata premiered the Hendrik Hofmeyr
Double Concerto
for Recorder and Harpsichord with esteemed South African artists
Stefan Temmingh and Erik Dippenaar.
Photo: Supplied

 

The Odeion School of Music Camerata (OSMC) at the University of the Free State (UFS) will be celebrating its fifth birthday in style when it participates in the 2017 International Ictus Music Competition. The competition is an innovative new online competition for ensembles, orchestras and band/wind ensembles (middle school, high school, youth ensemble, community ensemble and college/conservatory/university) that compete through video submission.

Opportunity for fundraising

As part of the competition the OSMC will host a concert that will also serve as a fundraising opportunity. The concert takes place on 31 May 2017 in the Odeion on the Bloemfontein Campus. The OSMC was strategically founded in 2012 by Marius Coetzee as the Odeion School of Music’s flagship chamber ensemble with the main objective of creating a catalyst for excellence.

International exposure at stake
Substantial money prizes are at stake in the International Ictus Music Competition and ensembles will receive written feedback from a jury consisting of renowned maestri including Stilian Kirov, who was awarded 1st Prize in the Debut Berlin Competition on 18 May 2017. Top prize-winners will be interviewed by a representative from the competition. It will be broadcast internationally to enable them to share their hard work and passion for music with the world.

Over the past five years the OSMC has premiered 10 new works by South African composers specially commissioned for them. A highlight remains its participation in the 13th International Conservatory Festival in St Petersburg Russia, where the ensemble received a standing ovation during a gala concert in the Glazunov Concert Hall.

Date: 31 May 2017
Time: 19:30
Place: Odeion (Bloemfontein Campus)
Entry: R20


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