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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

Sport results: Tennis, Netball, badminton, athletics
2009-05-05

During the Mega-intervarsity Tournament held at Sun City last week, both the University of the Free State’s (UFS) men’s and women’s tennis teams beat their opponents. The Kovsies women’s team beat the Pukke 15-0, Tukkies 15-1 and Maties 12-5.

The Kovsies men’s team beat their respective opponents as follows: Maties A 12-6, Maties B 15-0, Pukke A 9-7, Tukkies A 14-1 and Pukke B 15-0.

Janine de Kock from KovsieSport said that she was satisfied with these achievements. “For the past two years the women have won the University Sports South Africa (USSA) tournament and now again this tournament. What makes this achievement special is the fact that it was the first tournament that four of the women’s team members played for the UFS.”

“I am also very satisfied with the achievements of the men’s team. They ended sixth in last year’s USSA tournament. This year, at a tournament where the top four universities in terms of tennis were present, they won,” said Janine.
Rensia Henning in action during the Mega-intervarsity Tournament that took place at Sun City last week.
Photos: Jeanine de Kok
 
Netball: Hard work gets rewarded - (April 2009)

Three Kovsies were selected from the South African National Netball team to the Senior Top 12 Team that will represent South Africa at the SPAR Challenge, a three nation’s test series against Botswana and Fiji. These matches will take place towards the end of May in Pretoria.

The three students are Elzet Engelbrecht, Maryka Holtzhausen, en Adele Niemand.


Kovsie students compete at badminton championships

One former student from the University of the Free State (UFS) Chris Dednam, and one current Kovsie student Annari Viljoen are included in the National Badminton Team that represented South Africa from 17 to 24 April 2009 at the All Africa Badminton Championships in Nairobi, Kenya. They also participated in the Kenya International Championships from 25 to 27 April 2009.

Chris Dednam and Annari Viljoen and with them Roelof Dednam, also a former Kovsie student, were included in the team that will participate at the Sudirman Cup in Guangzhou, China. The Sudirman Cup that will take place from 10 to 17 May 2009 is the world mixed team badminton championship and takes place every two years.

Kovsie athletes win medals

Kovsie athletes excelled at the South African Students Athletics Championships (USSA) that was held in Stellenbosch by winning a total of 15 medals.

The medal winners are:
Gold: Thuso Mpuang for the 200m, Johan Cronjè for the 1 500m, Maryna Swanepoel for the half marathon and Marizette Badenhorst for hammer throw.
Silver: Thuso Mpuang for the 100m, Johan Cronjè for the 5 000m, Charles le Roux for triple jump, Ronè Reynecke for the 800m, and Abongile Lerotholi for 1 500m.
Bronze: Kagisho Kumbane for 100m and 200m, Boy Soke for half marathon, Charles le Roux for long jump, Thandi Malindi for the 3 000m steeple chase, and Marike Steyn for triple jump.

In the team competition the Kovsie men’s team received third place and the women’s team fourth place.
 

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