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

Nine Kovsie students awarded NAC bursaries
2015-02-19

The UFS is proud to announce that nine of our Drama and Theatre Arts undergraduate students have been awarded National Arts Council (NAC) bursaries for their studies in 2015.

From the left in the photograph, these students are:

• Mbuyiselo Nqodi (first year)
• Marike Jonker (second year)
• Monique de Klerk (second year)
• Aldine van der Merwe (third year)
• Kado Cloete (third year)
• Rondo Mpiti (third year)
• Magnus McPhail (third year)
• Olivia Wyngaard (third year)
• Marica Laing (second year)

This year the amount awarded for the NAC busaries is R70 000.

Since 2005, the NAC has given bursaries to the UFS for the last 10 years. The amount varies from year to year.

“The number of undergraduate students who benefit varies depending on the amount allocated each year,” said Prof Nico Luwes, Head of the Drama and Theatre Arts Department at the UFS.

“Some years, the NAC prescribes how many students will be awarded a bursary and provides a profile of gender and academic prerequisites. Other years, such as the present one, there is no prescription and the UFS was able to cater for the applications submitted, and the number of students who will benefit, within the amount awarded. Normally, it is divided between successful candidates.”

The criteria according to which NAC bursaries are awarded to students every year include academic merit and, of course, their financial situation.”

“The full information of applicants from the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts is checked by the selection committee – all permanent members of staff in the department. The names are then sent to the NAC for approval.
UFS Finances ensures further that the bursary money is paid into the student’s class fees account. During the year and at the end, I report to the NAC on the progress shown by bursary holders. This, in turn, contributes to the excellent co-operation with the NAC so that the following year’s application is then generally successful,” says Luwes.

Bursary monies cover mainly registration and class fees for some or all modules, depending on the amount awarded.

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