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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

Research conducted on economic impact of recent international soccer and rugby matches for Bloemfontein
2004-09-09

The Centre for Development Support at the University of the Free State (UFS) recently conducted a survey on the economic impact of the international soccer and rugby games that were played in Bloemfontein earlier this year.

The research focused on the soccer match between Bafana Bafana and the Cape Verdic Isle and the rugby match between the Springboks and Ireland .

“The survey was done as a result of a research agenda about local economic development in Bloemfontein ,” said Dr Lochner Marais, researcher at the centre.

“We conducted the research by doing 402 interviews with soccer supporters and 376 interviews with rugby supporters from outside Bloemfontein ,” said Dr Marais.

The centre distributed questionnaires, collecting the following information on the soccer and rugby supporters: their age, gender and origin, the number of nights spend in Bloemfontein , their household expenditure in Bloemfontein and their rating on the quality of service.

“It is estimated that 10 800 soccer supporters and 27 000 rugby supporters came from outside Bloemfontein . Of the rugby supporters 14,4% were female and 85,6% were men. For the soccer international the percentage was 33% females and 67% males,” said Dr Marais.

The highest number of people who came to watch the soccer game in Bloemfontein (35,8%) was from the Northern Free State . The rugby supporters mainly came from Gauteng (21,8%) and the Northern Free State (18%).

When visiting Bloemfontein soccer supporters spend R912 per household, whilst rugby supporters reached deeper in their pockets and spent R1 807 per household.

“The survey indicated that the two international matches resulted in approximately R58 million been spent in Bloemfontein . Rugby supporters were accountable for the largest part (R48 787 205) spent. The largest chunk of the money spent was on accommodation (R14 593 279). On average soccer and rugby supporters from outside Bloemfontein spent 1,4 and 1,9 nights in Bloemfontein ,” said Dr Marais.

Rugby and soccer supporters were also asked to rate the quality of service received from amongst others hotels, guest houses, restaurants, and transport and entertainment facilities. Soccer supporters rated their satisfaction with services higher as rugby supporters. The rugby supporters gave the services at hotels a 3,9 rating, whilst soccer supporters awarded 4,6 rating out of a possible five.

Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Media Representative
Tel: (051) 401-2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@mail.uovs.ac.za
9 September 2004
 

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