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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

MBA Programme - Question And Answer Sheet - 27 May 2004
2004-05-27

1. WHAT MUST THE UNIVERSITY OF THE FREE STATE (UFS) DO TO GET FULL ACCREDITATION FOR THE MBA PROGRAMMES?

According to the Council on Higher Education’s (CHE) evaluation, the three MBA programmes of the UFS clearly and significantly contribute to students’ knowledge and skills, are relevant for the workplace, are appropriately resourced and have an appropriate internal and external programme environment. These programmes are the MBA General, the MBA in Health Care Management and the MBA in Entrepreneurship.

What the Council on Higher Education did find, was a few technical and administrative issues that need to be addressed.

This is why the three MBA programmes of the UFS received conditional accreditation – which in itself is a major achievement for the UFS’s School of Management, which was only four years old at the time of the evaluation.

The following breakdown gives one a sense of the mostly administrative nature of the conditions that have to be met before full accreditation is granted by the CHE:

a. A formal forum of stakeholders: The UFS is required to establish a more structured, inclusive process of review of its MBA programmes. This is an administrative formality already in process.

b. A work allocation model: According to the CHE this is required to regulate the workload of the teaching staff, particularly as student numbers grow, rather than via standard management processes as currently done.

c. Contractual agreements with part-time staff: The UFS is required to enter into formal agreements with part-time and contractual staff as all agreements are currently done on an informal and claim-basis. This is an administrative formality already in process.

d. A formal curriculum committee: According to the CHE, the School of Management had realised the need for a structure – other than the current Faculty Board - where all MBA lecturers can deliberate on the MBA programmes, and serve as a channel for faculty input, consultation and decision-making.

e. A system of external moderators: This need was already identified by the UFS and the system is to be implemented as early as July 2004.

f. A compulsory research component: The UFS is required to introduce a research component which will include the development of research skills for the business environment. The UFS management identified this need and has approved such a component - it is to take effect from January 2005. This is an insufficient element lacking in virtually all MBA programmes in South Africa.

g. Support programmes for learners having problems with numeracy: The UFS identified this as a need for academic support among some learners and has already developed such a programme which will be implemented from January 2005.

The majority of these conditions have been satisfied already and few remaining steps will take effect soon. It is for this reason that the UFS is confident that its three MBA programmes will soon receive full accreditation.

2. WHAT ACCREDITATION DOES THE UFS HAVE FOR ITS MBA PROGRAMME?

The UFS’s School of Management received conditional accreditation for its three MBA programmes.

Two levels of accreditation are awarded to tertiary institutions for their MBA programmes, namely full accreditation and conditional accreditation. When a programme does not comply with the minimum requirements regarding a small number of criteria, conditional accreditation is given. This can be rectified during the short or medium term.

3. IS THERE ANYTHING WRONG WITH THE ACADEMIC CORE OF THE UFS’s MBA PROGRAMMES?

No. The UFS is proud of its three MBA programmes’ reputation in the market and the positive feedback it receives from graduandi and their employers.

The MBA programmes of the UFS meet most of the minimum requirements of the evaluation process.

In particular, the key element of ‘teaching and learning’, which relates to the curriculum and content of the MBA programmes, is beyond question. In other words, the core of what is being taught in our MBA programmes is sound.

4. IS THE UFS’s MBA A WORTHWHILE QUALIFICATION?

Yes. Earlier this year, the School of Management – young as it is - was rated by employers as the best smaller business school in South Africa. This was based on a survey conducted by the Professional Management Review and reported in the Sunday Times Business Times, of 25 January 2004.

The UFS is committed to maintaining these high standards of quality, not only through compliance with the requirements of the CHE, but also through implementing its own quality assurance measures.

Another way in which we benchmark the quality of our MBA programmes is through the partnerships we have formed with institutions such as the DePaul University in Chicago and Kansas State University, both in the US, as well as the Robert Schuman University in France.

For this reason the UFS appreciates and supports the work of the CHE and welcomes its specific findings regarding the three MBA programmes.

It is understandable that the MBA review has caused some nervousness – not least among current MBA students throughout the country.

However, one principle that the UFS management is committed to is this: preparing all our students for a world of challenge and change. Without any doubt the MBA programme of the UFS is a solid preparation.

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