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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

Kovsies reign FNB Superbowl
2007-05-10

The FNB Super Bowl took place from 26 – 30 April in Potchefstroom.
The Kovsies reigned the tournament in their respective categories.
It was an absolute mega Intervarsity. The following tournaments took place in which Kovsies was represented.
 
Senior rugby tournament
The Shimlas won their first game against TUT 33-0
In the Semi-final Shimlas lost against Pukke 17-8.
The Shimlas played for third and fourth place against Tukkies and won the game 41-19. Which secured them the third place in the tournament.
 
The following teams participated in the tournament
Pukke, UJ, Shimlas, Tukkies, Maties, NMMU, TUT, UCT
 
SA Students team
The following Shimlas were selected for the SA student games:
Steph Roberts (prop)
Drikus Strydom (hooker)
Philip Steyn (lock)
Marlin Ruiters (Scrumhalf)
Marcel du Toit (flyhalf)
 
Pharmaton Junior Rugby Tournament
The Kovsies u/21 & u/19 teams won their respective tournaments. It is a wonderful accomplishment for the University. The following teams took part in the tournament: Kovsies, Pukke, Tukkies and UJ.
 
u/21 results
Won Pukke 12-11
Won UJ 22-18
Won Tukkies 47-16
 
u/19 results
Won UJ 9-8
Won Pukke 25-13
Won Tukkies 25-16
 
Hostel Rugby Tournament
Reitz and Armentum represented Kovsies. These two teams played against each other in the final which Reitz won 47-0. To have both our hostel teams in the final is an outstanding accomplishment for Kovsies.
The following Universities took park: Kovsies, Pukke, Tukkies and UJ
 
Reitz results
Won Sonop (UJ): 27-7
Won Patria (Pukke): 11-10
Bastion (Tukkies): withdraw
Won Armentum in the final: 47-0
 
Armentum results
Won Overs (Pukke): 15-7
Won Afslaan: 49-12
Won Boekenhout: 43-0
Lost against Reitz in the final: 47-0
 
Hostel Soccer
Veritas represented Kovsies and won Kiaat from Tukkies in the final with 3-1 after a penalty shoot-out.
 
Hostel Netball
Vergeet-my-nie and Emily Hobhouse represented Kovsies. Vergeet-my-nie lost in the final against Wanda from Pukke17-14.
 
Hostel Cricket
Vishuis lost in the final against Villagers from Pukke with 5 wickets.
 
Hostel Hockey
Wag-‘n-Bietjie and Vergeet-my-nie represented Kovsies. Unfortunetly none of them went through to the finals.
 
 We won most of the games against the strongest Universities in the country is an outstanding accomplishment for Kovsies.
 
Compiled by
Ansu Colditz
Rugby Manager

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