GRADUATE SUCCESS STORY: Overcoming obstacles to graduate as a mining engineer

Posted on December 14, 2020

Pholoso Sehlelane graduated with a Bachelor in Engineering degree in Mining Engineering (BEng Mining) in 2020. Having grown up in the township of Namakgale, just outside Phalaborwa, he commenced his early schooling at Phalaborwa Primary School. He then proceeded to Sebalamakgolo High School in Phalaborwa, where he matriculated.

Growing up near a city that was surrounded by mining sites, frequent school excursions exposed him to the mining industry and various engineering disciplines. This ignited a passion to pursue a career in mining engineering.

His choice of the University of Pretoria (UP) was motivated by the fact that UP subscribes to various highly recognised academic bodies. It also has a world-class virtual reality centre, delivers quality education and its qualifications are recognised worldwide. His brother, Mahlatse, also intends to study at UP, and hopes to pursue a qualification in Logistics.

Commencing his studies in a different environment than he was used to came with several difficulties, including the environmental adjustment and lack of funding. However, the Department of Mining Engineering, through Head of Department, Prof Ronny Webber-Youngman, assisted in paying for his final-year studies. With the determination of any other Tukkie student, he persevered with the assistance of lecturers and faculty advisors such as Joseph Makhasa and the Department of Student Affairs.

A highlight of his studies was the three years he served on the Tuks Mining Society, including as Vice-Chairperson in 2018. As a student member of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM), he had the opportunity to attend several industry-related events, such as the Mining Indaba and the SAIMM Annual Student Colloquium. He was also invited to speak at the Women in Mining Seminar of the Department of Mineral Resources.

Pholoso intends to continue with postgraduate studies to enhance his skill and expertise in the engineering profession. He hopes to contribute to the body of knowledge of the Engineering Council of South Africa and to spread the possibilities of engineering to young pupils in the country’s townships and rural areas.

Looking back on 2020, he reflects that it granted him the opportunity to learn online, which was not really that difficult as the Department of Mining Engineering had been conducting hybrid learning and had been introducing its students to online learning for some time. The only challenges he experienced were due to limited internet coverage and lack of resources, but the University provided the necessary assistance in this regard.

Pholoso has the following message for prospective students: “No matter what your background, you have a place in society with endless opportunities. Stay disciplined, work hard, and use your talent to build your life and that of society.”

His family had intended celebrating his graduation by hosting a traditional graduation celebration, but this was not possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they will still celebrate after the pandemic, as he is the first person in his family to graduate from university.

Published by Marietha Hicks

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