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

New security measures for Rag fundraising
2012-01-25

The University of the Free State will no longer allow first-year students to sell Ritsems or to shake their cans for change at traffic robots in Bloemfontein in an effort to raise funds for Rag Community Service.

This decision follows after an evaluation has been done in 2011 and 2012 concerning the safety risk for students during this type of sales at road crossings.
 
The new security measures have specifically been implemented for this type of sales since last year.
 
The measures included, among others, that students should be obliged to wear brightly coloured safety jackets during sales, continuous supervision of first-year students by senior students to ensure that students keep to the rules of the road, and limiting the sales hours at robots.
 
Through notices in the media, an appeal was made on motorists to keep a lookout for students raising money for Rag Community Service. The measures were implemented and the effects thereof for students’ safety during sales at robots monitored since last year. This follows after a student, Ms Hanje Pistorius, was hit by a reckless driver in 2010 and she subsequently lost her leg as a result of the accident. 
 
Although, from all appearances, the new measures are a positive contribution to protect students even more, the UFS decided to abolish the sales and fund-raising actions at traffic robots. As reckless drivers would not necessarily take notice of the extra measures, the risk to students at robots stay unchanged. 
 
"The UFS sets the safety of its students as first priority and considers it in the best interest of students to not expose first-years to the risk during our Rag programme,” says Mr Rudi Buys, Dean: Student Affairs at the UFS.
 
Night fund-raising and the selling of Ritsem in the city’s suburbs will, however, continue. 
 
Although the UFS do not expect the new measures to be detrimental to fund-raising efforts, Rag Community Service currently considers new supporting proposals for the raising of funds for community projects in order to address any possible reduction in funds. 
 
Mr Buys also has an agreement with Ms Pistorius to assist Rag Community Services in the planning of new projects.
 
The Night fund-raising in suburbs will take place on Tuesday 24 January and Thursday 26 January and the UFS calls on residents to assist students and help them in the important task at hand.
 
Three Rag processions will take place on Saturday 28 January 2012. At 10:00 two Rag procession will be leave for Heidedal and Mangaung, where the Kovsie Rag Community Service will hand out food parcels.
 
The main Rag Procession will leave the UFS at 18:00 and will move towards the Old Greys sports ground for the Rag concert with Die Heuwels Fantasties and DJ Black Coffee.

Media Release
25 January 2012
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Director: Strategic Communication
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: news@ufs.ac.za

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