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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

Scaena Theatre: Boom! (Afrikaans) 7-9 May

Produksie: Boom!
Regie: Adriaan Meyer
Teks: Nataniël
Kostuums: Errol Arendz
Stelontwerp: Strijdom van der Merwe
Datum: 7-9 Mei
Venue: Scaena-teater
Kaartjie-pryse: R65 & R95
Besprekings: Computicket

BLOEMFONTEIN: Nataniël-aanhangers wat nog nie Boom! gesien het nie, moet gou spring vir kaartjies. Die produksie is gedurende Mei-maand moontlik vir die laaste keer in Bloemfontein te sien.

Boom! is deur Nataniël geskryf. Al die 2008-vertonings van die stuk op Aardklop en die Volksbladfees is al uitverkoop. Ekstra vertonings moes gereël word. Die produksie was ook op ander feeste, soos die Woordfees op Stellenbosch te sien. Die eenvrou-tragikomedie is `n vertoonstuk vir die vaardige spel van met Hilletje Möller.

Hilletje Moller verwerf in 2005 haar B.A Drama en Teaterkuns aan die Universiteit van die Vrystaat, waar sy Universiteits erekleure vir teaterkuns verwerf. Hilletjie maak haar professionele debuut, tydens haar vertolking van die hoofrol in Skerp-sin (oorspronklike teks deur Pulitzer pryswenner Margaret Edson). Verder was sy al op die verhoog te sien in produksies soos “Die Huweliksaansoek" , “Nag van Legio", “Bloedbruilof", “Weer" en “Bewys" wat in 2008 Beste Debuut Produksie by die Volksblad Kunstefees aangewys is. Hilletje is in 2008 gekeur om haar studies aan die Lee Strasberg drama instituut in New York voort te sit.

Op 7-9 Mei om 19:30 is BOOM! In die Scaena-teater op die UV-kampus te sien. `n Middagvertoning om 14:30 is ook op Saterdag gereël. Kaartjies is beskikbaar teen R65. Teen slegs R95 per persoon is 20 sitplekke per vertoning beskikbaar op die leerbanke en sluit sjerrie in.

Besprekings is deur Computicket (Mimosa Mall en Checkers).

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