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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

UFS Communication and Brand Management Department once again honoured for ground-breaking communication work
2016-04-29

Description: Martie en Leonie award Tags: Martie en Leonie award

The UFS was announced as winner in the internal communication category of the African Excellence Award after entering the B Safe Take Action campaign. The university also received a Gold Award at the 2016 PRISM Awards. Here are Martie Nortjé, Assistant Director: Communication and Brand Management, and Leonie Bolleurs, Assistant Director: Internal Communication, from the University of the Free State.
Photo: Hannes Pieterse

Within a week, the Department of Communication and Brand Management at the University of the Free State brought home two gold awards. In April this year, the department was announced as winner in the Internal Communication Category of the African Excellence Awards for the B Safe Take Action campaign. They also received Gold at the 2016 PRISM Awards for the KovsieGear entry.
 
PRISM Award for the UFS KovsieGear shop
 
Martie Nortjé, Assistant Director: Branding and Merchandise, attended the PRISM Award function in Johannesburg where she received the Gold award for the UFS KovsieGear shop for the best entry in the corporate communication category. This is the second consecutive year that the department received Gold at the PRISM Awards. Last year, the department received Gold for the B Safe Take Action campaign.
 
The idea for a university-owned shop was initiated in 2013. Launched in January 2014, KovsieGear is used to strengthen the brand and creating a sense of ownership among all stakeholders. The KovsieGear team is grateful for the continuous support of staff and students, as well as alumni.
 
The PRISM awards of the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA) are Africa’s most sought-after award in the public relations industry, and are presented to public relations and communication professionals who have incorporated strategy, creativity, and professionalism successfully into public relations and communication programmes and strategies, showcasing a successful public relations campaign.
 
African Excellence Award for B Safe Take Action Campaign
 
The B Safe Take Action campaign also received an award recently at a gala event hosted by the African Excellence Awards in Cape Town. Leonie Bolleurs, Project Manager of the B Safe Take Action campaign, received the award on behalf of the university.
 
It is of cardinal importance for the university that its students, staff, and assets are safe. Once again, this award demonstrates that the university is serious about the safety of its staff and students. This is especially so, since it is the objective of the campaign to develop a culture of safety awareness in students and staff alike.
 
The hosts of the African Excellence Awards are The Communication Director, the magazine for Corporate Communications and Public Relations (PR) in Europe, which enjoys worldwide distribution. According to Rudolf Hetzel, Chairman of the jury and publisher of The Communication Director, the African Excellence Awards are an opportunity for all those working in the field of PR and communications throughout Africa to come together, and honour ground-breaking communication campaigns and projects.
 
Quality work
 
“I am extremely proud of the Communication and Brand Management team for performing excellently once again in national and continental awards programmes. The awards are a good benchmark for the quality and standard of the work we produce,” said Lacea Loader, Director of the Department of Communication and Brand Management.  
 
In the past two years, the department also received other awards for their work. This include:
-    UFS #FaceOfFacebook campaign received a Gold Quill Excellence Award from the International Association for Business Communicators (IABC), both internationally and in the Africa region.
-    B Safe Take Action campaign received a Gold Quill Merit Award from the IABC, both internationally and in the Africa region.
-    UFS #FaceOfFacebook campaign received a Bronze Stevie Award from the International Business Awards (IBA).
-    B Safe Take Action campaign received a Bronze Stevie Award from the IBA.
-    #UFStoday Facebook campaign received a Merit Award from Marketing Advancement Communication in Education (MACE).
-    The NSFAS awareness campaign received a Merit Award from MACE.
 

 

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