Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Years
2017 2018 2019 2020
Previous Archive
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

Politicians must push economic integration within SADC, Mboweni
2009-08-31

The outgoing Governor of the Reserve Bank, Mr Tito Mboweni (pictured), believes that for economic regional integration to be realized among the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, the political leadership of the region should play a pivotal role.

Mr Mboweni delivered the CR Swart Memorial Lecture, the oldest lecture at the University of the Free State, on the topic: “Seeking greater political and economic integration in Southern Africa in challenging and turbulent financial times”.

He said the necessary macro-economic convergence accords must be put in place for regional integration to take place.

These accords, he said, should be supported by prudent fiscal policies, financial balances among SADC countries, and the implementation of policies which will minimize market distortions.

“In the crafting of the macro-economic policies of the region we have to ensure that market certainty is maintained,” he said.

He said as governors of central banks in the region they have agreed that to achieve these objectives they first have to attain a free trade area.

“When the proposals were drafted the idea was that in 2008 we should have achieved a free trade area,” he explained. “Now we are behind in that regard, meaning that a free trade area has been formally and officially declared but the implementation thereof is behind schedule.”

Mr Mboweni said they were supposed to have a SADC-wide customs union in 2010, a SADC common market in 2015 and a monetary union in 2016.

“In order for us to move towards the regional integration agenda it is clear that there has to be a far greater intra-African trade than is the case now,” he said.

“In Southern Africa most of the trade is with South Africa and the other countries do not trade much with or amongst each other.”

He also said because the South African currency is legal tender in countries like Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, they have developed a comprehensive set of proposals with these countries to deal with this matter.

“Our proposals basically center on the creation of a common central bank for South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland which, if created, would form a good basis for the establishment of a SADC-wide central bank.”

He said the macro-economic convergence criteria will not help achieve regional integration without the region’s political will.

“There has to be a commitment by the political leadership in Southern Africa to do the basic things that need to be done for the development of the region,” he said.

“That is where the notion of a developmental state must come in in support of these regional integration initiatives. There is no gain in just shouting developmental state if the basic issues supportive of development are not done.”

Mr Mboweni will leave the Reserve Bank in November this year.


Media Release
Issued by: Mangaliso Radebe
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2828
Cell: 078 460 3320
E-mail: radebemt.stg@ufs.ac.za  
31 August 2009

 

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.

Accept