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

State of our campuses: UFS extends vacation as from 28 September until 7 October 2016
2016-09-28

In solidarity with the call for free education for the poor and missing middle, a discussion was held with the University Management Committee this morning, in consultation with the student leadership, and after careful assessment of operational matters on all three campuses of the University of the Free State (UFS), we agreed upon the following:
 
1.    All classes, tests, and assignments will be suspended until Friday 7 October 2016. This means that the university will close on Wednesday 28 September 2016 for an extended vacation until 7 October 2016. The academic programme will resume on Monday 10 October 2016.
                     
2.    This will allow the entire university time to demonstrate solidarity, in collaboration with student leadership, academic and support staff, and the broader community in support of free higher education for the poor and missing middle.
                  
3.    The administration of the university will continue on Thursday 29
September 2016, and staff will have access to their offices to plan the additional academic support for students, to consider the re-scheduling of the academic calendar, to engage with the Department of Higher Education and Training in relation to the students’ demands, and to continue with support services during the extended vacation.
 
4.    The university management and student leadership will also, over the next three days, engage in discussions to provide for a platform that is conducive to continued collaboration between students and the university leadership.
 
5.    The suspension of tests, classes, and assignments will also allow time for a social compact and code of ethics for protests to be agreed upon and signed between student leadership and the university management.

 In respect of the Qwaqwa Campus, some protesting students yesterday intimidated others and forcibly removed staff, as well as security personnel. Today, university property was burnt. In view of our commitment to the safety of staff, students, and university property at the campus, it was necessary to evacuate the campus – including residences – with immediate effect. However, residential students are allowed to remain on campus until midday tomorrow (28 September 2016).

The university leadership again wants to emphasise its support for a national policy of free education for the poor and missing middle and stresses its support for peaceful protests on matters that are of concern to our students.
 
We further understand the frustration of many students and their parents/guardians at the closure of the campuses and the impact it has on academic staff, staff in the Support Services, our security personnel, teaching, learning, projects, assignments, lectures, tests, fieldwork, and the academic calendar in general, and commit to do all in our power to ensure the delivery of quality education to all our students under difficult circumstances.


Released by:
Lacea Loader (Director: Communication and Brand Management)
Telephone: +27 51 401 2584 | +27 83 645 2454
Email: news@ufs.ac.za | loaderl@ufs.ac.za
Fax: +27 51 444 6393

 

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