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

UFS hosts celebration ceremony for Wayde and Rynardt
2016-09-13

“I really appreciate each and every one of you.
It is something I will always cherish.”

Video clip
Photo Gallery

“I will continue to try and make you guys proud and represent Kovsies in a positive light.” With these words Wayde van Niekerk thanked his University of the Free State (UFS) family and emphasised the importance of this community in his life.

After returning from the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the 400 m Olympic champion made his first appearance on the Bloemfontein Campus at Mooimeisiesfontein on 9 September 2016. This formed part of a hero’s welcome on an open-top bus, arranged by the Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation. The bus also stopped at Hoffman Square, Grey College, the Mangaung Outdoor Sports Centre, and Twin City Mall in Bloemfontein.

Description: Wayde parade Tags: Wayde parade

Wayde van Niekerk thanked his fellow Kovsies for
their support.
Photo: Johan Roux

However, UFS students and staff will have their own opportunity to honour this achievement in true Kovsie spirit with a celebration ceremony on 15 September 2016 on the Bloemfontein Campus. Van Niekerk and fellow Olympian Rynardt van Rensburg, who reached the semi-finals in Rio and ran a personal best of 1:45.33 in the 800 m, will be welcomed back with this special event.

A humble Van Niekerk isn’t known for many words and his brief visit at Mooimeisiesfontein was no exception.

“Thank you to everyone who came out to support me,” he said from the open-top bus to a festive crowd close to the Main Entrance of the UFS.

“I really appreciate each and every one of you. It is something I will always cherish.”

 



Event:
Celebration ceremony for Wayde van Niekerk and Rynardt van Rensburg
Date: 15 September 2016
Time: 17:30
Place: Callie Human Centre (Bloemfontein Campus)

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