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

Kovsies shine at USSA Cross Country Championships
2009-10-15

Thandi Malindi (far left) from the UFS and two Matie athletes, Elene Lourens and Mia Pienaar.
Photo: Supplied

Kovsie cross-country athletes Boy Soke and Thandi Malindi were included in the USSA squad for 2010 at the World Student Cross-Country Championships in Canada. The final team will be announced after the SA Cross-Country Championships. They recently participated in the USSA Cross-Country Championships that were held at the University of Johannesburg. According to Mr DB Prinsloo from KovsieSport at the University of the Free State, the UFS team did extremely well at the recent USSA Cross-Country Championships.

Kovsies won the women long-race team competition (8 km), while the men came second in the men’s long-race team (10 km) competition. In the short-race team competitions (4 km for men and women) the UFS men finished fourth and women ended in fifth place respectively.

Thandi Malindi, the UFS Women Cross-Country captain, was the first Kovsie over the line (third place), followed by Nelmarie Loubser (4th) and Maryna Swanepoel (6th), who also won the team competition in the 8 km (long race) with 13 penalty points against the 14 penalty points of the Maties who finished second.

Mr DB Prinsloo from KovsieSport at the UFS praised the Kovsie athletes for the manner in which they ran the race. “Thandi gave her all; so much so that she had to be admitted to hospital due to dehydration. Nelmaré ran the hills with a smile on her face and Maryna, who suffered from low blood sugar, persevered until the end so that a Matie athlete could not pass her. You all showed to us what ‘vasbyt’ really means,” Mr Prinsloo said.

Kovsies performed above expectation in the short race (4 km) for women. “Our women finished fifth in the team competition. If one takes into consideration that the Kovsies were represented by 400/800 athletes, i.e. Elri Richter (400/800), who came seventh, Anneri Ebersohn (400/400 hurdles), who ended in sixteenth place and Yvonne Eyssen (heptathlon) who ended in twentieth place, it makes this performance even better,” Mr Prinsloo commented.

In the men’s short race (4 km) where the Kovsies were represented by young first-year 800 m athletes, the UFS did excellently by finishing in fourth place. Hanne Naudé (18th), Lebohang Mpure (19th), Abri Horak (26th) and Gerrit Viljoen (34st) ran their hearts out!

The long race (10 km) for men, which was run on an extremely difficult course, was another highlight – also for the Kovsies. The Kovsies finished second in the team competition. Boy Soke (4th), Windy Jonas (8th), Schadrach Mochelenyane (10th) en Michael Tlhoro (21st) represented the Kovsies with honours. Unfortunately Johan Cronjé and Dumisane Hlaselo had to withdraw from the race due to injuries.

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