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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

OSM opening concert 2012
2012-03-02

 

The OSM Camerata is going to shine in the very first annual OSM opening concert.
1 March 2012


 

OSM opening concert 2012 with the OSM Camerata
Conductor: Nicholas Nikolaidis
Date: 1 March 2012
Venue: Odeion
Time: 19:30

The OSM opening concert 2012 with the OSM CAMERATA will be streamed live on the internet with the generous support of OSM partner, LA MUSE AUDIO & LIGHTING (www.ufs.ac.za/ufslivestreaming) in collaboration with the UFS LIVE STREAMING UNIT.

The OSM Camerata is going to shine in the very first annual OSM opening concert. The ensemble will be conducted by Nicholas Nikolaidis. The programme includes excerpts from Stabat Mater (Pergolesi), Romanian Folk Dances (Bartók), Pelimannit (Rautavaara), Elegy (Grové) and Purple Haze (Hendrix). since 2011, the Odeion School of Music has embarked on a new, innovative strategy striving towards uncompromising excellence and internationalisation, which includes the A-List scholarship programme and a new flagship chamber ensemble, the OSM Camerata. Talented South African, conductor/tenor Nicholas Nicolaidis, (runner-up in the First National Len van Zyl Orchestral Conducting Competition) will take the stage for the inaugural concert of the OSM.

Nicholas started his conducting career at an early age while still in the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School. Professionally his first conducting post was as choirmaster and conductor of the choir and band at Pridwin Preparatory School (Melrose, Johannesburg) in 1996.

Following his appointment in April 1997 as the Musical Director of Côr Meibion Cymru de Affrig (The Welsh Male Voice Choir of South Africa), he conducted the choir for seven years, producing three albums. One of the highlights was the performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London in October 2000 for the Millennium Festival of Male Voice Choirs.

His orchestral conducting debut was in 1998 at the Johannesburg City Hall where he conducted the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra and the Symphony Choir of Johannesburg in a few items of ‘Last Night of the Proms’. Selected conducting performances include the Chanticleer Singers in a performance of Schubert’s Mass in G at the Holy Trinity Church (Braamfontein, Johannesburg) in 2002, and the Johannesburg Camerata, a chamber orchestra consisting of talented young performers, during their winter season in 2005.

In 2006, Nicholas enrolled at Stellenbosch University for a Master’s degree in Choral Conducting under the direction of the Norwegian pedagogue, Kåre Hanken. During this time, he also conducted the Johannesburg-based chamber choir, Collegium Vocale. He conducted the Johannesburg Chamber Wind Ensemble from 2006 to 2008.

In 2009, he conducted the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra in a programme of music by Leroy Anderson, the vocal ensemble, In Verse, and the Chanticleer Singers during their Christmas season. Nicholas was also the winner of the inaugural Young Choral Conductors Competition held during the Stellenbosch International Choral Conducting Symposium in March 2009.

In February 2010, he was awarded the Silver Medal in the inaugural Len van Zyl Conducting Competition held in conjunction with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra. During the Easter period of 2010 he conducted Cantamus Corde in a performance of JS Bach’s St John’s Passion, whilst also singing the role of the Evangelist.

Nicholas has also appeared as guest conductor of the Philharmonia Choir of Cape Town in a concert with music by Ramirez and Klatzow. In that year he also conducted the gala Concert of the Brooklyn Theatre (Pretoria).

Refreshments will be on sale before and after the concert.

Admission:
R60 (adults)
R40 (pensioners, students and learners)
Tickets available at Computicket.

Enquiries:
Ninette Pretorius (Tel: +27(0)51 401 2504)


 

 

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