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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

Rag 2005
2005-01-20

20 January
Thursday

08:00-12:00 Rag Workshop - Westblock 202

Workshops are held to introduce the First Year
students to the work that is done by Rag & Kovsco
and the importance of their social responsibility towards their community.

10:30-11:30 Lettie Fouchè

The Central Rag committee visits and treats the children of Lettie Fouchè School.

Evening Collections - Mochacos, Waterfront

First years work hard to raise money via door
to door collections in the neighbourhoods of
Bloemfontein for charity. First years dress-up as
chickens and prizes can be won every night.


21 January
Friday

08:00-12:00 Rag Workshop - Westblock 202

Workshops are held to introduce the First Year
students to the work that is done by Rag & Kovsco
and the importance of their social responsibility towards their community.


22 January
Saturday

08:30 for 09:00 Ladies Tea
in conjunction with Sarie
co-sponsored by Audi & Pick’nPay Hypermarket

An enjoyable morning where the ladies of Bloemfontein and surrounding areas are treated with beautiful
layed tea tables and guest artists. The host of every table participate in a competition and prize winners for the most beautiful tables are announced. The guest artist for Ladies Tea 2005 is Nataniel.


24 January
Monday Evening Collections - Mochachos, Waterfront

First years work hard to raise money via door to door collections in the neighbourhoods of Bloemfontein for charity. First years dress-up as chickens and prizes can be won every night.

25 January
Tuesday
08:30-16:00 MGD Coronation Ball tickets for sale
29 January 2005
Sand du Plessis Theatre
R260 per couple

The prestige evening of Kovsie Rag filled with
great music, sound and a vibrant show. The MGD
Rag Queen and her princesses are crowned and Rag
also makes use of this opportunity thank its
sponsors.

16:00 Vote for Rag Finalists at men’s hostels float-
building areas

Students have the opportunity to vote for their
favourite Rag finalists at the float building areas.

17:00-22:00 Evening Collections - Mochachos, Waterfront

First years work hard to raise money via door
to door collections in the neighbourhoods of
Bloemfontein for charity. First years dress-up as
chickens and prizes can be won every night.


26 January
Wednesday

22:00 MGD Rag Finalist Mass - Scholtz Hall

An exciting mass is held for the students to introduce
the 10 beautiful Rag finalists.

27 January
Thursday

08:00 Ritsim Launch - City Lodge

Ritsim 2005 is launched and introduced to the
UFS Top Management and the sponsors.

09:00-16:00 Campus vote for MGD Rag Finalists at various
voting stations.

Various voting stations are placed on campus for the students to vote for their favourite MGD Rag finalists.

Voting stations: Callie Human; Soetdoring Cafeteria; Library; Medical Cafeteria and at the Thakaneng Bridge.

17:00-22:00 Evening Collections - Mochachos, Waterfront

First years collect money for charity


28 January
Friday Ritsim Bloemfontein City Sales

6:30 Brace your self for the students around every corner
on the streets of Bloemfontein. Support Kovsie RAG
and buy a Ritsim 2005 magazine.
R10 per copy

16:00-22:00 Potjiekos - Vodacom & Tiger Brands
(Unite for Hunger)
Coca Cola Fortune & ABSA

Students enjoy a great evening of potjiekos and try their best to persuade the judges that their potjiekos is the best. Music and entertainment is organized.

29 January
Saturday

05:00 Ritsim Rural Town Sales

The students drive off into the country to sell the Ritsim magazines in various towns. R10 per copy.


18:00 for 18:30 MGD Coronation Ball
Sand du Plessis Theatre
R260 per couple

The crowning of the RAG Queen is a spectacular
evening not to be missed. It is an evening filled with
vibrant music and colour and you will also be treated
with a great show. Kovsie Rag also thanks its
sponsors on this prestige evening.


30 January
Monday

13:00-14:00 Sent placing - Thakaneng Bridge

Come and donate your change and it place it on a letter of a hostel of your choice.


5 February
Saturday

08:00-10:00 ENGEN RAG Procession

Proud Kovsie students have worked very hard on their floats and can’t wait for this day. Please come and enjoy a great day with Kovsie RAG and your family.

Procession Route: The Procession starts at the Kovsie Church. The procession proceeds in Nelson Mandela Drive and turn right into Markgraaff street. We then turn right into Kingsway and stop in front of the stage at the Art Market. Prof. Fourie introduces a toast on Rag 2005 and enjoys a glass of champagne with our
beautiful Rag Queen and her princesses.

Please support the first years in put your change into their collection tins.

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