Janathon De Klerk calls herself the Astronomer of the Karroo in line with her ambition to become a radio astronomer at the Square Kilometre Array project. Now, her ambitions follow her ability to secure bursaries from the project due to her excellent performance at school and so far, she has not disappointed.
Born and raised in Vanwyksvlei, just 80 km away from Carnarvon, she describes it as a very,
very small town. This small town together with Carnarvon fall under the Kareerberg municipality which has a population of around 11 674, an employment rate of 39.2% with just 22.4% of adults over 20 years of age having completed matric.
It comes as a great surprise therefore, to come across such an individual as the enthused Miss De Klerk. Speaking at the launch of 16 new antennas , she could not hide her excitement at having the project in her area especially as it has benefitted her directly on her quest to becoming the astronomer of the Karroo.
“In grade 11 I was nominated as one of the students [to] receive bursaries from the SKA and I can say with pride that I am still one of those students who has the bursaries and being part of this project”, she said.
“In the beginning of this year I started my studies at the University of the Free State as a student with a full bursary from the SKA also as the five of us would call ourselves: ‘The Big Five of the SKA’, or ‘The Big Five of the Karroo’”.
She received a bursary from the SKA SA project because of her outstanding performance at school and she has continued the trend well into her BSc Mathematics and Physics degree at the University of the Free State. “I can say with pride that I passed my first semester as a first year student with two distinctions,” she said.
Not oblivious to the struggles of her community due to a lack of opportunities, she sees many opportunities brought on by the project. “There are many opportunities for youngsters in our area in the fields of science and maths and technology,” she said.
“It starts with oneself- You need to love what you are doing, and I thank the SKA for giving me the opportunity to do something that I love,” she said. “I can say that one day when I come back I want to the Astronomer of the Karroo.”