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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

Regional Conference on Trafficking in Human Beings
2007-06-29

Trafficking in Human Beings:
National and International Perspectives

Date: 17th August 2007
Address: CR Swart Auditorium, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Every year thousands of children and adults become victims of trafficking and abuse in South Africa and throughout the southern African region. Victims are trafficked for a myriad of reasons: sexual exploitation, including prostitution and pornography; illegal labour, including child conscription; domestic servitude; illegal adoptions; body parts/organs; and forced marriages.

The Unit for Children’s Rights, Department of Criminal and Medical Law, University of the Free State (UFS), together with the Centre for Continuing Legal Education at UFS, will host a Regional Conference on Trafficking in Human Beings. The conference will bring together key role-players from the South African government as well as crucial international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the region.

Trafficking in human beings, especially women and children, is a serious violation of the human rights of the victims, as well as an extremely profitable source of income to organized crime, and needs the attention and intervention of both governmental and non-governmental institutions in South Africa.

Speakers will include representatives from the United National Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the South African Law Reform Commission, the Unit for Children’s Rights-UFS, and NGOs Molo Songololo and Terre Des Homes, that work with child trafficking victims in South Africa and around the world.

The media are invited to report on the conference, and interview speakers and presenters Attached find programme. For more info contact the following persons.

1. Beatri Kruger - 051 401 2108 / email: krugerh.rd@mail.ufs.ac.za  
2. Susan Kreston - 051 401 9562 / email: krestons.rd@mail.ufs.ac.za  
3. Elizabeth Snyman – 051 401 2268 / email: snymane.rd@mail.ufs.ac.za  

Programme

Trafficking in human beings:
National & international perspectives


Presented by The Unit for Children’s Rights, Department Of Criminal & Medical Law , Faculty of Law, in Conjunction with The Centre for Continuing Legal Education, University of the Free State.

Funded through the Generosity of the United States Department of State

17 AUGUST, 2007 – CR SWART AUDITORIAM

8:00-8:30 Registration & Tea
8:30-8:45 Opening & Welcome
Prof. JJ Henning, Faculty of Law
8:45-9:40 Overview & Global Perspective
Prof. Susan Kreston - Unit for Children’s Rights, Faculty of Law-UFS

9:40-10:00 TEA

10:00-10:45 International Perspectives & the Role of Organized Crime in Trafficking
Wiesje Zikkenheiner, Associate Expert
United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime, Pretoria
10:45-11:45 Identifying and Assisting Victims of Trafficking
Marija Nikolovska, Project Officer
International Organization for Migration, Pretoria

11:45-12:30 LUNCH

12:30-1:15 Prosecuting Trafficking Without Trafficking Laws
Adv. Nolwandle Qaba, Sexual Offences & Community Affairs Unit
National Prosecuting Authority, Pretoria
1:15-2:15 Recommendations for New Legislation in South Africa
Lowesa Stuurman - South African Law Reform Commission, Pretoria

2:15-2:30 TEA

2:30-2:50 The Role of Terre Des Homes in Fighting Trafficking in Children
Judith Mthombeni– Terre Des Homes, Pretoria
2:50-3:50 Trafficking in Children in South Africa – A Front Line Perspective
Patrick Solomon - Molo Songololo, Cape Town
3:50-4:00 Closing Remarks
Adv. Beatri Kruger
Department of Criminal & Medical Law - UFS

 

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