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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

Kovsiesport - Results
2009-03-09

 
Varsity Cup: Shimlas (39) vs Tuks (22) - 2 March 2009
Photo: Hannes Pieterse

1.  Krieket:
   
     UV 1 vs Polisie 2

     UV 1 maak 216/8 en Polisie 2   87/10

     UV wen met 129 lopies

     Peshawars vs Rocklands

     Rocklands   65/10  en Peshawars kry 67/1

     Peshawars wen met 9 paaltjies

2.  Hokkie

     Wedstryde gespeel op Saterdag – 28/02/09

     Kovsie mans vs Tuks
     Verloor 0 – 3

     Kovsies dames vs Tuks
     Verloor 4 – 0

3.  Rugby

     Wedstryde gespeel op 02/03/09

     Shimlas vs Pukke
     Wen 39 – 22

     Armentum vs Amajuba (Maties)
     Wen 61 – 19

4.  Atletiek

     2 S.A Atlete het deelgeneem aan die Southern Region Cross Country
     Championships in Mauritius op 28/02/09 naamlik:

  1. Windy Jonas in die Mans 8km (Tyd – 25:35)
  2. Boy Soke in die Seniors 12km (Tyd – 35:52)

4.  Tennis

     Het proewe gehad oor die naweek en die volgende spelers is in die onderskeie spanne
     opgeneem.

Mans:                                                                 Dames:
                 
1.  Reon Henning                                        1.  Elrien de Villiers
2.  Duke Munro                                          2.  Rensia Henning       
3.  Willem Vorster                                      3.  Christine Keyser
4.  Robert Kot                                            4.  Nicola Dormehl
5.  Willem Steenkamp                                 5.  Jeanne Du Plessis
6.  HB Steyn                                              6.  Elizna Barnard
7.  Wynand Schoeman                                7.  Marna Louw
8.  De Villiers Koster                                  8.  Belinda Strydom
9.  PW Holtzhausen                                    9.  Jolene Botha
10.Divan Olivier                                         10.Sumandi Nel
11.Hendri Steyn                                         11.Bernadette du Toit
12.Ruan Olivier                                          12.PETRO TAUTE
13.Renier Van Vreden                                13.Nicolene Gordon
14.Deon Stander                                        14.Lianie Oberholster
15.Pieter Burger                                         15.Melanie Patrick
16.Willie Harber                                         16.Elria Munro
17.Conrad Dormehl                                    17.Sunelle Van Vuuren
18.Gideon Roux                                         18.Some Olivier
19.Andries Swart                                       19.Lize Venter
20.Schoeman Serfontein    
21.Marthinus Ras
22.Lyndon V/D Haer
23.Johan Scherrer
24.Phillip Smit
25.Adriaan Oosthuizen
26.Gerhard Olivier
27.Wessel Wessels
28.Pieter Van Rooyen
29.Pierre Lombaard
30.Alex Marais
31.Jacques Krause

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