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

New guidelines to increase diversity in student residences at the UFS
2007-06-08

As from 2008, the University of the Free State (UFS) will implement new policy guidelines for student residences so as to increase diversity on the Main Campus of the UFS in Bloemfontein.

These new policy guidelines were approved by the Council of the UFS today (Friday 8 June 2007) after consultations with a range of stakeholders, especially students currently in residences, student leaders and student organisations, with inputs received from alumni and parents as well.

According to a statement by the Chairperson of the UFS Council, Judge Faan Hancke, and the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, Prof. Frederick Fourie, the guidelines are based on an educational rationale with a definite educational objective.

“What the UFS seeks to do with these new policy guidelines, is to overcome the racial divides of the past and equip students in residences with the knowledge and skills to understand people from other cultures, appreciate other languages and to respect differences in religion but also economic background,” Judge Hancke and Prof. Fourie said in their statement.

“This will give students in UFS residences a distinct advantage over many other work seekers in South Africa, because the workplace today is a very diverse place with people of many backgrounds,” Judge Hancke and Prof. Fourie said in their statement.
They said the UFS wanted to establish a new model of residence life in which students will voluntarily embrace diversity and learn about diversity so as to add value to their educational experience in a residence.

In the late 1990s the UFS made the first attempt to integrate its residences which led to violent clashes between white and black students. A compromise agreement was reached based on freedom of association but this has over the years led to the current situation of largely white and largely black residences.

To support students during the implementation of the new policy guidelines, the management of the UFS will establish several mechanisms and programmes for students to empower them, to build their capacity and to facilitate a smooth transition to a new model of student life in the residences.

Judge Hancke and Prof. Fourie said the decision is another important milestone in the ongoing transformation of the UFS and in the provision of quality higher education for all UFS students, and that the decision had been taken in the best interests of the students.

“This is a very carefully managed transition to bring about a non-racial character to our student residences in line with the Constitution and the ethos of a democratic South Africa,” Judge Hancke and Prof. Fourie said.

How the new policy will work in practice

As from 2008, the new policy aims to bring about an important shift in the way first-years are placed in a residence. From 2008 first-year students are to be placed to achieve a minimum diversity level of 30% in each junior residence.

In senior residences a mix of approximately 50-50 will be the goal from 2008.
Residences will be responsible for placing 50% of first-years, which gives them the scope to increase diversity. The university’s accommodation service will place the other 50%. All these placements must occur in accordance with the educational rationale and the related diversity objective.

If a residence cannot reach the diversity objectives, the university will use the 50% of placements that it controls to achieve sufficient diversity in a particular residence.

Support mechanisms for students

According to Dr Ezekiel Moraka, Vice-Rector: Student Affairs, students in the residences will not be left on their own to deal with the issues of diversity. The management of the UFS has identified several important areas where the process may need support, especially in the early stages of implementation. Students and student leadership will be involved in the further design and finalisation of the implementation details.

These areas where support will be finalised are the following:

  • Providing properly trained and qualified personnel (such as live-in wardens, residence heads etc.) to supervise the implementation of the policy on a 24-hour basis;
  • Ongoing orientation workshops for all students in residences to deal with diversity in a mature way;
  • Support to deal with language issues, including interpreting services so that language rights of all students can be respected; and
  • Assistance with the review of residence governance, administrative and other procedures that have been used in residences up to now.

“There can therefore be no doubt that the management is committed to the well-supported and successful implementation of this new policy and to giving the best possible education to all our students,” Judge Hancke and Prof Fourie said.

Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za
8 June 2007
 

 
 

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