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 Dean scoops prestigious award for analysis of book of Malachi
2017-05-15

Description: Prof Fanie Snyman book Tags: Prof Fanie Snyman book

Willem Louw, Chairperson of the UFS Council;
Dr Khotso Mokhele , Chancellor of the UFS,
Eleanor van der Westhuizen, from the Directorate
of Research Development; Prof Francis Petersen,
UFS Vice-Chancellor and Rector; Prof Fanie Snyman,
Dean of the Faculty of Theology; and
Prof Corli Witthuhn, Vice-Rector: Research.
Photo: Johan Roux

The most sought-after award at the UFS, the annual Book Prize for Distinguished Scholarship, was recently won by Prof Fanie Snyman, Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religion. His book, Malachi, which is about the last book of the Old Testament, has received acknowledgement through this award. He is the third academic to be awarded this prize. The book was published in English by Peeters Publishers in Belgium as part of the ”Historical Commentary on the Old Testament” series with a view to an international audience, and can be used by theology scholars and academics.

Labour of love over many years
Prof Snyman has a long history with the Bible book of Malachi. Since his student years, this book in the so-called ‘Minor Prophets’ of the Old Testament had a special charm for him. In fact, Prof Snyman has produced several publications on this concise book of 55 verses over the years. Furthermore, his doctoral thesis, as well as several papers delivered at congresses, also had this book as the theme. It took Prof Snyman about a decade to write the book.

What lies ahead for him in the future? “I am closing the book Malachi for the time being,” says Prof Snyman. “However, my research on the ‘Minor Prophets’ will continue. As a result of Malachi, InterVarsity Press in Cambridge contacted me for the writing of a book in another international commentary series, this time on the books Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah.” Prof Snyman will use his prize money of R75 000 towards this goal.

Book prize a surprise
“I can sincerely say that I did not expect the award at all. I did not know which other excellent research was submitted and thought that research from another discipline might do better. Therefore, I was completely surprised when my book was announced as the winner, and it left me speechless at the moment!” says a modest Prof Snyman.

He adds: “I am sincerely grateful for this award, but I must also thank the university. I would like to express my appreciation for the academic milieu, financial support, as well as overseas travel opportunities that have enabled me to complete the book and achieve this award.”
 
Book review by international expert
Prof Rainer Kessler, a world-renowned expert on the Bible book of Malachi, said in a review of Malachi: “The commentary on Malachi in the renowned Historical Commentary on the Old Testament series is the fruit of decades of studies on the book. [It] is full of respect towards the text. [Prof] Snyman is very cautious in his judgements and decisions. He rather presents different possibilities than uttering one-sided positions. [Finally, he] treats others always in a very fair manner. He presents their opinions as objectively as possible, especially when he does not agree. This commentary is a new and very useful tool for the study on the often underestimated last book of the Old Testament prophets.”

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