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 Library book launch programme fosters dialogue between students and authors
2017-03-30

Description: Library book launch 2017 Tags: Library book launch 2017

The University of the Free State (UFS) Sasol Library has hosted a series of book launches since 2016, bringing to the Bloemfontein Campus various new and seasoned authors who share their stories with the campus audiences. The Launch Your Book at the Library Programme hosted two authors on 23 March 2017, Itumeleng Sekhu and Marcia Ramodike. Both authors spoke about their life-changing experiences and shared their heart-wrenching stories, filled with courage and hope. 

“Libraries must take the lead in creating dialogue, expression of ideas and inculcating a culture of reading and writing. This programme was also established to bridge the gap and find ways to encourage students to read and write, by creating a platform where they can interact with authors and see that people who write books are ordinary people with real stories to tell,” said Marcus Maphile, Assistant Director: Library Marketing and Community Engagement.

Speaking about her book, Itumeleng Sekhu described her experiences from childhood and her life as a disabled person after being severely burnt in a fire accident in her home as a baby.  She said: “I tried to commit suicide several times because I had lost hope. Eventually after failing to do so, I realised at some point that it was time for me to let my light shine through.” She wrote her book, titled What Do You See?, which has received substantial media coverage, to encourage others who live with painful experiences, disabilities and what she terms “internal wounds”, hoping that her experiences could help to heal them.

Marcia Ramodike’s book, An Empty Pride to a Full Price, paints a picture of her life as a youth grappling with adult issues. She describes her pain after her mother’s death, and her constant battle with the legacy of the difficult socio-economic conditions she grew up in. When students asked Ramodike what she thought the right time was to write a book, she responded, “today is the right time to write your story”.

The UFS Library has hosted 16 book launches since 2016, with the biggest being the launch of Zubeida Jaffer’s book Beauty of the Heart. The programme aims to provide access to information and to share and debate ideas in support of democracy and freedom of speech.

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