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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

Over 300 diplomas in Financial Planning Law awarded


Adv. Wessel Oosthuizen, Director of the Centre for Financial Planning Law; Marilize Putter, top student in the Advanced Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Planning Law, Jenny White, top student in die Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Planning Law and Prof. Rita-Marie Jansen, Acting Dean: Faculty of Law at the UFS.
Photo: Stephen Collet
28 June 2012

The Centre for Financial Planning Law (CFPL) in the Faculty of Law at the University of the Free State (UFS) awarded 342 Postgraduate and Advanced Postgraduate Diplomas in Financial Planning at this year’s graduation ceremony. The ceremony was held at the Sandtion Conference Centre in Johannesburg on 19 June 2012.

Some of the distinguished guests who attended were Dr Khotso Mokhele, Chancellor of the UFS, Dr Derek Swemmer, Registrar of the UFS, Prof. Nicky Morgan, Vise-Rector: Operations at the UFS, Prof. Helena van Zyl, Director of the UFS’s Business School, Prof. Rita-Marie Jansen, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Law and Adv. Wessel Oosthuizen, Director of the CFPL. The Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Planning Institute of Southern Africa, Mr Godfrey Nti, and the Chairperson of the Board, Mr Solly Keetse, were also present at the graduation ceremony.

Marilize Putter was named as the top student in the Advanced Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Planning Law, with Jenny White the top student in die Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Planning Law.

The UFS remains the largest institution in this field. The UFS’s Centre for Financial Planning Law is also the only institution in South Africa that presents the Postgraduate Diploma in Financial Planning Law as a pure specialisation diploma.

Donors who made the event possible include:

  •  Craig Bentley of Alexander Forbes
  •  Dev Chetty of Liberty Life
  •  Henry van Deventer of Acsis
  •  Tessa Pappenfuss of Lexis Nexis
  •  Bertie Nel of Momentum

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