THE MEERKAT PROJECT
an oasis of hope in the Karoo
he construction of the MeerKAT radio telescope and Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) has enabled South Africa to develop capabilities in design and building of world class telescopes, costeffective supercomputing systems, multidisciplinary systems engineering protocols for large infrastructure and technology projects, and development of a geographical advantage area into a research investment hub supported by advanced legislation and technical skills to preserve it. The MeerKAT radio telescope, is an iconic scientific instrument designed entirely by South African scientists and engineers, with more than 75% of the total spend being local. As a responsible corporate citizen, the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO) works in partnership with the local Karoo community in order to ensure the long term successful operation of radio astronomy facilities in the area. To this end, SARAO has created significant artisanal capacity to operate and maintain the MeerKAT and SKA facilities. Students from Karoo towns have been trained or are training as electricians, fitters and turners, instrumentation, diesel mechanics, IT, boiler making, carpentry, plumbing, bricklaying and welding. Of the 18 qualified artisans supported, 11 have been employed by SARAO. In addition,
The MeerKAT radio telescope, is an iconic scientific instrument designed entirely by South African scientists and engineers, with more than 75% of the total spend being local. SARAO has established and is managing a technical training centre in Carnarvon, to train electrical-artisan students. Since 2007, SARAO has been coordinating various interventions in the primary and high schools close to the SKA site in the Karoo. The intention of the schools programme is to improve literacy, mathematics and science teaching and learning in these schools, and ensure greater educational benefits
accrue to the local communities as a result of the SKA project. Interventions have included the secondment of qualified and experienced mathematics and science educators to the schools, support to the science and mathematics educators and learners, and a bursary programme for Grade 8 to 12 learners to study at Carnarvon High School - the only high school in the region offering Mathematics and Physical Science to Grade 12 level. Such initiatives have had long lasting impact. For example, working in partnership with organised agriculture and local authorities, SARAO also supported the establishment of a feedlot to support local emerging farmers during the current drought conditions in the Karoo.