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

Tanya takes over netball reins from big sister
2016-07-04

Description: Tanya Mostert USSA SASPA Tags: Tanya Mostert USSA

Tanya Mostert will lead the University of
the Free State Netball team at the USSA
tournament in Cape Town.

Photo: SASPA

Last year, big sister led the Kovsie team, and now it is the turn of her little sister. Tanya Mostert will be filling the shoes of her big sister, Karla Mostert, when she leads the University of the Free State (UFS) team in the USSA tournament in Cape Town from Monday 4 July 2016.

Karla now helping as defence coach

Karla was captain in Johannesburg in 2015 when the UFS lost against Tuks in the USSA final by 39-48. The star of the Proteas is too old to play for the UFS again, and is now helping out as defence coach. Karla and Lauren-Lee Christians, who won’t be playing in the USSA tournament, were included in the South African Universities Netball team that will compete in the World Student Games in Miami, America, from 13 to 17 July 2016.

The Kovsie Netball team is one of seven UFS sports teams competing in USSA tournaments. The others are hockey (men and women), rugby, badminton, basketball, squash, and volleyball.

Mostert sisters are both natural leaders

Like Karla, Tanya is a natural leader. She was captain of the Zwartkop High School team, as well as the Free State U19 and U21 teams. “It is amazing that two children from the same home are both leaders, even if there is naturally a difference in their leadership style,” says Burta de Kock, the Kovsie coach.
“For me as coach, it is also wonderful to know that they (Karla and Maryka Holtzhausen, Protea captain and Kovsie assistant coach) are prepared to plough back at this young age. They are also role models for the other players.”
According to De Kock, she has a strong USSA group and wants the UFS to perform better than in 2015.

The UFS teams taking part in the USSA tournaments from Monday 4 July 2016 are:

  • Netball (Cape Town)
  • Hockey (men and women, Johannesburg)
  • Rugby (East London)
  • Badminton (Stellenbosch)
  • Basketball (Johannesburg)
  • Squash (Stellenbosch)
  • Volleyball (Pretoria)

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