The inspiring story of how a bright, determined girl from rural NorthWestern province won a scholarship from First Quantum Minerals, and is now a third-year geology student at the University of Zambia’s School of Mines.
What were your career aspirations at high school?
I wanted to become a doctor. When I was growing up, my health wasn’t good, and going to hospital was expensive for my parents. I come from a poor family. So, I thought if I studied medicine, it would make things easier.
Today, you’re not studying medicine, but geology. How did that happen?
I was in Grade 12, my final year of high school. There was this United Nations programme to encourage girls to study sciences. I was the best student in maths and physics. So, I was picked, along with a friend, to go to Solwezi.
Describe your impressions when you got there.
Wow – it was so big! I’d never been to Solwezi before. A bus took us to the Solwezi College of Education. We stayed there for ten days. There were students from other schools. We attended classes in the sciences – maths, chemistry, physics and biology. Afterwards, we had to write a test in each subject.
“I’d never been to Solwezi before – it was so big!”
How did you do?
I did okay – I got in the seventies and eighties. Then on the last day, that’s when they told us that we were all going to visit Kansanshi Mine.
What was it like?
I was scared. I’d heard mining was dangerous. But down in the pits, people were working and it all seemed so normal. When I saw those big machines and trucks, I thought: Oh, my God – how are they managing this?! I saw a lady operating a big dozer. I thought: I can also do this.
How did you hear about the scholarship?
We were given a motivational talk by a senior lady – Linda Mambwe. I listened very carefully. If you work hard and get good exam results at school, she said, we will help you to study whatever you want. And I’m like – wow, I’ve found my scholarship! When I got home, I told my parents they don’t have to worry anymore.
So you started preparing for your exams?
Yes. I was determined to do well. There was no electricity at home, so working at night meant using candles. I started working extra hours at school during the day – from six in the morning to five in the afternoon.
Did it pay off?
Yes. I did well in my exams. Now I’m thinking – I’ve done well, so now I want my scholarship!
What did you do next?
I got on a bus to Solwezi and went to Kansanshi. They didn’t know I was coming. I’m here to see Linda about my scholarship, I told this man. He was confused. You can’t just see her like that, he said; you have to send her an e-mail. So, he helped me send the email.
How long was it before you heard back?
About two weeks. I stayed with my aunt in Solwezi. Almost every day, I’d go to the mine to check. Eventually, we got a call saying I had to come in for an interview.
How did the interview go?
It went well. Linda was there too – she remembered me. Then they said I had to go to Ndola for aptitude tests. I had to go onto Google to find out what that meant.
How did you do in the aptitude tests?
I sailed through. And that was my first time using a computer.
When did the scholarship come through?
About a month later. After researching mining courses, I chose geology. It was a full scholarship – my parents didn’t have to pay anything.
What was your reaction when you got the news?
I was dancing! It was so amazing. I thought: now my troubles are over.
Did you start university right away?
No. Those of us who got scholarships worked at Kansanshi mine for eight months. I worked in geology department. It was so interesting. Afterwards, it was time to start university in Lusaka.
How did you get to Lusaka?
By air. It was my first time in a plane. I was so scared on take-off. And Lusaka was so big! Suddenly, Solwezi seemed very small.
How was the transition to full-time studying at the university?
I had to work very hard. But I did well in my final exams, and was one of 13 students accepted into the School of Mines to study geology.
You’re in third year. How did you find your second-year exams?
It was a walkover. I did very well. The work experience at the mine really helped.
Where do you see yourself five to ten years from now?
For now, I’m just aiming to get good results and not disappoint my sponsors. But I’d like to visit another city that is bigger than Lusaka – maybe Johannesburg! And one day I’d like to start my own business – one related to mining.
How have you changed during this entire experience?
I’m not scared anymore. My life is working out.
See also: A Zambian success story