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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

Minister praises the Faculty of Law
2009-02-13

 
At the launch of the Faculty of Law at the UFS's celebration of 100 years of jurisprudence, under the theme "Iurisprudentia 100", were, from the left: Judge Faan Hancke, Extraordinary Professor in the Department of Criminal and Medical Law and Chairperson of the UFS Council, Judge Lex Mpati, President of the Highest Court of Appeal, Mr Surty, Judge Hendrik Musi, Judge President of the High Court of the Free State, and Prof. Henning.
Photo: Stephen Collett
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Mr Enver Surty, has praised the Faculty of Law at the University of the Free State (UFS) for producing lawyers, academics, judges, etc. of great note.

Mr Surty was guest speaker this week on the Main Campus in Bloemfontein at the launch of the faculty’s celebration of a century of excellence in legal education, training and research at the UFS. The theme of the celebration is “Iurisprudentia 100”.

“The faculty has throughout its existence demonstrated its capability and capacity to produce scholars, legal practitioners, academics, judges, politicians etc, of great note. The university can take pride in the fact that, as an institution, you have done so well,” said Mr Surty.

Mr Surty said that our judiciary must be adequately qualified and it must be representative of our nation. “We must therefore have more aspiring judges in our midst and we must have a more representative judiciary – in race and gender. This is where an institution like the UFS can play an important role,” said Mr Surty.

Mr Surty also commented on the university’s engagement with its communities.
“The UFS has begun to recognise the importance of community engagement. Unless community engagement is part of your curricular activity we would not be able to produce the judges of the caliber we need who are better able to understand the social and economic context of our society,” he said.

According to Prof. Johan Henning, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the UFS, the faculty has a distinguished history of excellence in theoretical and practical legal education and training, which can be traced as far back as the establishment of the Grey University College in 1904.

Over the years, student numbers grew considerably and today the faculty has over 2 700 graduate and postgraduate students.

“The faculty prides itself on the fact that some of its students and lecturers went on to hold some of the highest offices in the country. Under its alumni are state presidents, ministers of state, administrators, judges of appeal, judges, rectors, professors and lecturers at the UFS as well as at other universities, advocates, attorneys and legal advisors – in private practice as well as in government,” said Prof. Henning.

The faculty’s “Iurisprudentia 100” celebrations will take place throughout the year with activities such as breakfasts for the various alumni groups of the faculty and a series of inaugural lectures. Cum Laude awards will also be
handed to Judge Lex Mpati, President of the Supreme Court of Appeal, and Judge Louis Harms, Deputy President of the Supreme Court Appeal. The celebrations will be concluded in November with a prestige dinner.

Celebration programme:

26 February 2009: Visit by Prof. Fernand de Varennes (of the Murdoch Law School, Perth, Australia),
13 March 2009: Breakfast for all candidate attorneys
18 March 2009: Breakfast for judges and Cum Laude awards
15 May 2009: Breakfast for labour law certificate alumni
11 September 2009: Breakfast for diploma alumni (CFP)
16 October 2009: Breakfast for attorneys and advocates
9-12 November 2009: Inaugural and public lectures
13 November 2009: Centenary dinner

Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za  
18 February 2009

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