“What are your career dreams – what do you want to be when you leave school?”

Hannah, a Grade 11 student at Mutanda Secondary School in rural North-Western Province, does not hesitate in her answer.

“I want to be an electrical engineer.”
“Would you like to work for the mines?

Little over 10 years ago, before Barrick Lumwana Mine started operations in the area around the school, this kind of bold ambition would have been unheard of. Today, it is common. Students dream big.

Take James, who is also in Grade 11. His favourite subjects are biology and maths. He wants to become a physiotherapist.

“Where do you want to study physiotherapy?”
“In China.”
“Why China?”
“Because that is the best country to motivate me and make sure I study hard.”

We want our students to do mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and geology

James and Hannah are part of a group of students who are on scholarships paid for by Barrick Lumwana. The scholarships cover their tuition, boarding, exam fees and uniforms. Barrick spends around $40 000 sponsoring about 100 students at Mutanda every year. Barrick has also built a science lab at the school and financed an education management course for its headmaster. The combined effect has been to boost the school’s exam results in the science subjects, and broaden the horizons of the students.

“In the past four years, we’ve managed to send six of our students to the University of Zambia and Copperbelt University to study in the School of Natural Sciences,” says Richard Kazadi, the school’s headmaster. “We want our students to do studies in mechanical engineering, mining engineering, geology and the like.”

Kazadi is proud of the progress the school has made in the sciences, and a large part of it is thanks to the science lab that Barrick Lumwana built. “Before the lab was built, science was taught as a theory subject. Now, with the laboratory, children can do practical exercises. It has motivated them to develop an interest in science.”

The school sets the bar very high academically, and emphasises the importance of quality. In the four years that the lab has been running, the proportion of students able to perform at the level deemed satisfactory by the school – i.e. a credit pass or better – has more than doubled, and even reached nearly 90% at one stage. Barrick Lumwana’s substantial investment over the years appears to have paid off.

The high-school scholarship programme for Mutanda targets children from the Mumena, Matebo and Mukumbi chiefdoms. While academic ability is the first criterion, special emphasis is also given to talented children from so-called vulnerable homes – for example, where parents have died, money is tight or living conditions are difficult. Barrick Lumwana also funds 10 tertiary scholarships every year for deserving students who want to continue to university. This particular programme is open to children from the whole of North-Western Province, and is very competitive.

To further broaden students’ minds and open them up to career possibilities in mining, Barrick Lumwana organises regular mine visits during which students are able to tour the operations, ask questions and interact with employees.

From a school management perspective, the substantial injection of Barrick Lumwana’s scholarship cash into the school’s annual budget makes a huge difference in its ability to budget, plan and fund purchases.

“A boarding school like Mutanda is very demanding,” says Kazadi. “When you’ve got 582 pupils to take care of, three-quarters of them in boarding, you soon find that there are many needs you need to take care of that you might not have planned for. We buy food; we buy stationery; but we also pay for trips, educational tours, clubs and other activities.”

He particularly appreciates the fact that Barrick Lumwana pays all the scholarship money annually, in a lump sum. This allows the school to budget and plan for the year, and fund the many essentials – and extra items – that the children require.

“Education is expensive,” says Kazadi. “If you want quality, you need to pay for it.”

See also: Grace, grit and determination