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

Motho ke motho ka batho. A person is a person through others.
2016-04-26

Video
Student Bursary Fund Campaign booklet (pdf)
Donate
Student Bursary Fund Campaign launched: #FundAFuture and make a difference

 

“I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to study further. For that to happen, the heavens had to forge a way.” Mixed feelings dapple Jean-Pierré van der Walt's face as he recounts the miracles - and hardships - of his journey.

Motho ke motho ka batho. A person is a person through others.

Jean-Pierré is one of ambassadors of the Student Bursary Fund Campaign, launched by the University of the Free State (UFS). The project aims to raise R100 m to fund talented, deserving students who do not have the financial means to obtain a university degree. This financial support will change the future irrevocably for many young people in our country, young people who are similar to Jean-Pierré.

Description: Jean-Pierré van der Walt Tags: Jean-Pierré van der Walt

Jean-Pierré van der Walt
Photo: Sonia Small

“When I was in matric, going to university was never an option.” Surmounting his financial circumstances seemed impossible. “It made me feel despondent, and I thought to myself: after school, what would my life be like, where am I going?” It was at this juncture in his life that a funding opportunity enabled him to pursue his dream of making a difference in the world through education. He embarked on a BEd degree in Senior and FET (Further Education and Training) Teaching, which he completed in 2015.

“Varsity taught me to stand up for myself, to make my voice heard,” Jean-Pierré says. “If I did not have the opportunity to attend university, I would have missed my calling in life: to show the world that, despite your physical restrictions, you can still make a difference.” Jean-Pierré is differently-abled as a result of cerebral palsy.

Looking to be placed as an English and Sesotho teacher, Jean-Pierré is eager to teach children that anything is possible, regardless of heritage, family life, or circumstances. “Motho ke motho ka batho. A person is a person through others,” he says is the philosophy he lives by. “One cannot survive in solitude; one needs others to go further in life.”

In the same way, the UFS needs your support and generosity. Each contribution will bring us closer to our goal of R100 m, and to changing the landscape of our youth’s future.

Visit our Giving page for ways to donate.

 

For enquiries or further information:
T: +27(0)51 401 3966 | E: FundAFuture@ufs.ac.za | www.ufs.ac.za

 

 


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