Club takes the stars to the townships

12 April 2010

Astronomy Club committee membersStargazers: Astronomy Club committee members are (from left back) Tafadzwa Mukwashi, Sally Macfarlane, Priscilla Chauke, Riona Ramraj and (front) Teboho Makhabane and Bradley Frank. (Absent: Moses Mogotsi.)

The freshly-launched UCT Astronomy Club has set its sights on an ambitious outreach programme that will take the wonders of astronomy to local disadvantaged schools.

The Stellar Club, a branch of the Astronomy Club, plans to produce free self-teach tutorials in maths and physical science for Grade 11 and 12 learners, and to organise activities and astronomy-related experiments.

Founder and chair of the club, Tafadzwa Mukwashi, explains how the project came about: "I was ill for the past two years and have been getting through my engineering courses by working through notes from home. I have maintained a first-class aggregate and I am now a firm believer in self-study. I believe this is a sustainable and effective way of helping to relieve the education crisis in South Africa."

Mukwashi plans to distribute the first tutorials in October 2010, and to begin visits to the schools in 2011.

"We will have role models going out to the schools to encourage and motivate learners," she says. "Many researchers and students in the space sciences are from disadvantaged backgrounds themselves. We also want to raise awareness about how learners can apply to tertiary education institutions and put them in touch with funding organisations and financial aid offices. We will also help learners with their applications."

The club is also producing an annual publication, The Astronomy Gazette, which will be available in September 2010. The Gazette will inform readers about new developments in the field, and about career opportunities in science and engineering.

"Rocket science is not as unattainable as some people may think!"

Club membership is free and open to anyone interested in astronomy. For more information, email the UCT Astronomy Club, or go to the Astronomy Department's website.

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