Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
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

UFS seals cooperation with National Institute for Higher Education
2006-03-20

At the signing of the agreement were seated from the left Prof Magda Fourie (Vice-Rector:  Academic Planning at the UFS) and Dr Pearl Nkosi (Head: Academic Planning at the NIHE). Standing from the left were Dr Kopano Taole (acting head of the NIHE) and Mr Vernon Collett (Registrar: Academic Student Services at the UFS).
Photo: Stephen Collett

UFS seals cooperation with National Institute for Higher Education

A formal memorandum of understanding was recently signed between the  University of the Free State (UFS) and the National Institute for Higher Education in the Northern Cape (NIHE).

The memorandum was signed to give both institutions a clear understanding of the way in which collaborative programmes should be implemented.

“Although the UFS has been presenting two bachelors degree courses (i.e. B Soc Sc in Human and Societal Dynamics and B Com in General Management) and the Career Preparation Programme at the NIHE since 2003, the cooperative agreement was never formalised,” explained Prof Magda Fourie, Vice-Rector:  Academic Planning at the UFS, during the signing ceremony.

These academic programmes, presented by facilitators living in Kimberley and lecturers from the UFS, serve 270 students and the entry requirements of the programmes are determined by the UFS.

Prof Fourie said the UFS had a history of a relationship with the NIHE.  The partnership should be seen as an example of how two institutions of higher learning can work together to serve the needs of the students in the region.

“The memorandum of understanding is part of the UFS’s commitment to and engagement with the central region.  As the NIHE is currently operating in a policy vacuum, the memorandum is underpinned by certain principles aimed at providing some parameters within which the relationship is established and developed,” she said.

Dr Kopano Taole, acting head of the NIHE, added to this by saying that the understanding of where the NIHE wants to take the partnership is now reflected in the memorandum of understanding. 

“The memorandum is the culmination of many years of hard work and of helping the people of the region.  The continued input and guidance of the UFS is of tremendous help to us and through this we gained a greater sense of what the NIHE can grow to be,” he said.

The NIHE is a joint initiative of the BHP Billiton Development Trust (BBDT) and the Northern Cape Provincial Government and was established in June 2004.  The National Plan for Higher Eduation (NPHE 2001) proposed the establishment of the NIHE in the Northern Cape to serve as the administrative and governance hub for ensuring the coherent provision of higher education through programme collaboration between the higher education institutions operating in the Northern Cape.

Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Media Representative
Tel:   (051) 401-2584
Cell:  083 645 2454
E-mail:  loaderl.stg@mail.uovs.ac.za
20 March 2006

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