Top mining studies achiever Paskalia Neingo has joined the staff of Wits University's School of Mining Engineering department as an associate lecturer. However, it took a first degree as a science teacher and five years at the blackboard before she was able to realise her dream of studying mining engineering.
"I always dreamt of working on a mine, like my father, but in a professional role," said Namibian-born Neingo. "When I left school in 1997 there was no mining degree offered at the University of Namibia, but I focused on science and maths subjects in my education degree - which would allow me to pursue my studies in engineering later."
Her appointment at Wits, made possible by a donation from Gold Fields, is part of the department's developmental goals. "We want to help a final-year student reach their own potential while exposing them to the possibility of an academic career," said head of the Wits School of Mining Engineering, professor Fred Cawood. "So we developed the concept of a grant-funded student joining the staff as an associate lecturer."
Vacation work at goldmine opened the door
Neingo was one of the school's best students in 2010, and was also the recipient of the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) prestige prize for the best student in Mining and Metallurgy. While on the staff, she is also engaged full-time in the postgraduate programme.
Hailing from Omufitu waNauyala in Namibia's Omusati region, she completed a Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Namibia, teaching physical science for five years before registering for a Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering at Wits in 2007.
Her teaching years based her in Swakopmund's Namib High School, where she was less than 200 km from Anglogold's Navachab Gold Mine. This was one of the most exciting projects on the Namibian minerals scene - pouring its first gold at the end of 1989 - and she was able to whet her appetite with vacation work on the mine. So it was with particular enthusiasm, she said, that she was able to accept a bursary from Anglogold to study mining engineering in 2007.
Excellence earned her numerous awards
She excelled from early in her mining degree, earning a number of accolades including the Mine Managers' prize for the best second-year student, the African Explosives Ltd prize for the highest marks in excavation engineering, the SAIMM prestige award for mining discipline (for two years running), the Herbert Simon Memorial Prize and the Danie Krige Prize in mine valuation.
She looks forward to applying her skills in the mining environment and hopes to continue her academic career through to a doctoral degree. But her interests also lie in teaching and mentoring others in this complex and demanding industry.
"I see myself not only as developing my own skills, but encouraging these interests in other young people," said Paskalia. "While Namibia does not have a large mining industry, there are still great opportunities for young graduates, and I would like to be part of the process of guiding them there."