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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

Parking at UFS for visitors
2007-11-10

UFS creates more parking for visitors

In its effort to make it easier for visitors to park on the Main Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS) in Bloemfontein, two paid parking areas will be put into operation as from Monday, 5 November 2007.

These parking areas are part of a comprehensive new parking strategy of the UFS, which is being implemented since September 2007. As part of the strategy, areas of the central campus have been reserved for staff and visitors and hundreds of new parking areas were developed for students at the entrance in Wynand Mouton Avenue (at the Faculty of Health Sciences) and the entrance in DF Malherbe Avenue (at the Agriculture Building).

“The paid parking areas for visitors, which are as close as possible to the busy and largely closed-off central campus, were created as an additional service to visitors,” said Ms Edma Pelzer, Director of Physical Resources at the UFS.

According to Ms Pelzer, persons who attend meetings, seminars or short courses, visiting colleagues, consultants, service providers, family of students and staff members, clients, etc. can make use of this parking.

“We have found that it is often difficult for visitors to obtain parking in or close to the central campus. Now they will have a choice to either park in the visitors parking areas at a minimal fee or to park in any of the open unreserved parking areas on campus,” said Ms Pelzer.

The areas, which will be closed off behind booms on weekdays from 06:00 until 18:00, are situated to the eastern side of the “Red Square”, east of the CR Swart and Idalia Loots Buildings and west of Campus Avenue North between the Psychology and the Flippie Groenewoud Buildings.


Media Release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Assistant Director: Media Liaison
Tel: 051 401 2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@ufs.ac.za  
2 November 2007

Parking for visitors: Important notice:

As from Monday 5 November 2007 two paid parking areas on the UFS Campus will be put into operation. The areas will be closed off behind booms on weekdays from 06:00 until 18:00. These will be manned and R3 per hour will be charged.
 

The following areas are involved:

  • P3: The area to the east of the “Red Square”, east of the CR Swart and Idalia Loots Buildings.

     
  • P6: The area to the east of Campus Avenue North between the Psychology and Flippie Groenewoud Buildings.

    The friendly co-operation of users of motor vehicles on campus is requested to allow this implementation to proceed as smoothly as possible.

Parking for visitors: More information

The strategy to create paid parking areas for visitors

The decision to reserve areas in the central campus areas for the convenience of visitors was taken as part of the comprehensive new parking strategy of the UFS approved by the Executive Management in May 2007 and which is being implemented since September.

All visitors need not park in these areas. Visitors may park for free on any open (unreserved) parking bay on campus. These paid parking areas for visitors, as close as possible to the busy and largely closed-off central campus, have been created as an additional service to visitors.

The strategy to close off parts of the central campus for staff members and visitors was implemented after sufficient alternative parking areas had been developed for students.

What is meant by the term “visitors”?

It includes all persons who are not students of staff members of the UFS and who visit the campus for one reason or another. Persons who attend meetings, seminars or short courses, visiting colleagues, consultants, service providers, family of students and staff members, et cetera are included.

As at present, it will, of course, be possible to make special arrangements with Protection Services to make it possible for VIP visitors to park as near as possible to their destinations.

No student or staff member will be actively prevented from parking in the area. They will, however, be discouraged by the fact that R3 per hour will be charged without exception.

The visitors’ parking area and access to it

  • P3: The area to the east of the “Red Square”, east of the CR Swart and Idalia Loots Buildings. The area is within easy walking distance for visitors to, among others, the following buildings: George du Toit Administration Building, Theology Building, Idalia Loots Building, CR Swart Building, Johannes Brill Building, Van der Merwe Scholz Hall.

    The area is conveniently accessible from the following entrances: Nelson Mandela Drive, Groenewoud Street and Wynand Mouton Drive.

     
  • P6: The area to the west of Campus Avenue North, between the Psychology and Flippie Groenewoud Buildings. The area is within easy walking distance for visitors to all the academic buildings in the central campus, such as the Chemistry Building, Stef Coetzee Building, the Geography Building, et cetera and located directly opposite the general information point on the Thakaneng Bridge.

    The area is conveniently accessible from the following entrances: Fürstenburg Road and DF Malherbe Avenue (at the Agriculture Building).

     

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