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Award-winning FQM geology student Tina Ndunguyonga

SOLWEZI, ZAMBIA – For many, a mine opening in your province means a boost in employment and local businesses. For Tina Ndunguyonga, it meant an opportunity to follow her dreams and give her and her family a better future. Ms Ndunguyonga is a third-year geology student at the University of Zambia (UNZA). Five years ago, the thought of going to the University of Zambia or any other institution of higher learning was a far-fetched dream.

Now she has just been awarded certificates of academic excellence by the UNZA senate scholarship and prize committee in three categories: the ZCCM Investment Holdings prize for academic excellence for being the most promising female student at the School of Mines; the School at Mines prize for academic excellence for being the best second year student in geology; and its prize for academic excellence as the best overall second year student. Ms Ndunguyonga’s achievements are all the more remarkable given her humble beginnings.  Her father is a small-scale farmer in Mufumbwe district. With eight children to support, resources are scarce. Ms Ndunguyonga always dreamt of using education to better her life. Her hard work at school paid off when she was selected to represent Mufumbwe Secondary School at a UNESCO-sponsored quiz in Solwezi.

Award-winning FQM geology student Tina Ndunguyonga

While on the trip to Solwezi, Ms Ndunguyonga and her teammates had the opportunity to tour First Quantum Mineral’s (FQM) Kansanshi mine. During the tour, they received a motivational talk from an FQM professional female employee. “We were told about women in mining and how we could also work in the mines. We were also given information about FQM scholarships and how they supported students that wanted careers within mining,” Ms Ndunguyonga said. This inspired her to pursue a career that would give her a chance to work in a mine. “Before visiting Kansanshi mine, I wanted to be a doctor, but after I saw the work that people do at the mines and how interesting it is, I was inspired to become a geologist,” she explained. Ms Ndunguyonga went back to Mufumbwe with renewed vigour and a goal to do well in her grade 12 exams, and be selected for an FQM scholarship. After receiving her grade 12 results, she approached the mines about giving her a scholarship to study geology at the University of Zambia. She went through the interview process and was one of 10 students selected to receive FQM bursaries.

Being selected for the scholarship was particularly special as she is the first in her family to go to university. “My father is very proud of me and what I am doing. I have also inspired my younger siblings to work hard at school and go to university.” Although she finds her studies challenging sometimes, she enjoys every single moment of her school life. “I like my course, I find it fascinating. We spend a lot of time in the field, doing practical things. It’s almost like you are working already.” Ms Ndunguyonga is one of three women in the geology programme. Despite many opportunities, engineering courses are still dominated by male students. “I think women can thrive in the sciences, they just need to be encouraged and told they can do it. ”When she graduates, Ms Ndunguyonga hopes to work for FQM and play a role in encouraging young girls from her district to aim high in their lives.
“FQM gave me an opportunity of a lifetime and I am forever grateful. I will continue to work hard and make sure I pay it forward,” she said.