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

Two Kovsies in SA Netball team for World Student Games
2016-04-18

Description: Lauren-Lee Read More Tags: Lauren-Lee Read More

Lauren-Lee Christians became the 12th Protea from the University of the Free State in 2015. She will play for the South African Universities Netball team in America during July.
Photo: SASPA

Two students from the University of the Free State (UFS), Lauren-Lee Christians and Karla Mostert, were selected for the South African Universities Netball team.

The team, with eight Proteas in its ranks, will be in action at the World Student Games in Miami, USA, from 13 to 17 July 2016.

Among the criteria for selection is that participants should not be older than 27 years in 2016, and they should have been students last year.

The South Africans, who came in second during the inaugural tournament in Cape Town four years ago, will be difficult to beat this time. A total of 12 countries will compete for the title of student champions.

Mostert part of previous successful team

Mostert was one of five Kovsies playing for this team in 2012, when South Africa lost 49-53 to Britain in the final. This came after the score was even at the end of regular play.

Mostert was also one of the two best players for the Proteas at the World Cup last year. Christians just missed out, and had to be content with being a non-travelling substitute after she became the 12th Protea of the UFS earlier in 2015.

Four from UFS in Cucsa squad

Meanwhile, four other of their teammates - Rieze Straeuli, Tanya Mostert, Kgomotso Mamburu, and Alicia Puren - were included in a provisional squad of 15 players to compete for the South African student team at the Cucsa Games (Southern African Student Games). This squad will soon be reduced to the 12 players who will represent their country in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, from 1 to 6 August.

No Protea can be selected for this student team. A fifth Kovsie, the goal shooter, Dénielle van der Merwe, was also selected for the initial squad, but had to withdraw due to a serious leg injury.


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