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

Housing strategy must accommodate special needs
2005-10-17

Dr Mark Napier of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) 

South Africa’s housing strategy must give attention to people with special needs, including people with disabilities as well as people living with HIV / AIDS and those in poverty.

This was the view expressed by Dr Mark Napier of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) during his recent presentation to the Housing Research Day organised by the Centre for Development Support (CDS) at the University of the Free State (UFS).

Dr Napier previously worked in the national Department of Housing and was involved in shaping the recently launched “Breaking New Ground” housing strategy of Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. 

He said the changing social and demographic trends in South African society, especially after 11 years of democracy, required more flexibility in housing delivery to address the housing needs of different groups of people.  “For example, there are people who wish to or may be required to be spatially mobile because of their work or other reasons. There are also those communities who are vulnerable to disasters,” he said.

According to Dr Napier, housing delivery faced a number of challenges which needed to be addressed, including:

  • the withdrawal of larger construction firms
  • perceptions of low profit margins in the private sector
  • the slow process of developing an emerging contractor sector
  • access to bridging and other finance
  • the ability to retain capacity and expertise mainly at municipal level
  • the acquisition of well located (especially inner city) land

Dr Napier said the new housing strategy – which is called “Breaking New Ground” – tries to go beyond the provision of basic shelter to the establishment of sustainable settlements. It is also tries to be more responsive to housing demand rather than being supply led.

 The new strategy also allows for greater devolution of power to municipalities in the provision of housing, through accreditation to manage subsidies, Dr Napier said. 

He said a survey of people who had benefited from government’s housing programme had shown mixed results, with beneficiaries reporting a sense of security, independence and pride.  Although the location of the houses was poor and there were increased costs, most beneficiaries said they were better off than before, according to the survey.  Beneficiaries also highlighted the problem that they had very little personal choice between houses, sites or settlements.

There was also the perceived failure of developers and municipalities to repair defective houses or adequately maintain settlements, the survey found.
Many beneficiaries also reported that they felt unsafe in their settlements as well as in their own houses.

Prof Lucius Botes, the director of the Centre for Development Support, said the research day highlighted the Centre’s ability to interact with real problems faced by communities, by government, the private sector and civil society.  “This is how we can ensure that the UFS is engaged through our research with our people’s problems and challenges and enables the UFS as a place of scholarship to assist in finding solutions,” Prof Botes said.

Media release
Issued by:Lacea Loader
Media Representative
Tel:   (051) 401-2584
Cell:  083 645 2454
E-mail:  loaderl.stg@mail.uovs.ac.za
17 October 2005   
 

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