The Experience of a Mining University Graduate from Namibia

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Lydia Kuwilileni Mwatyony, a graduate of Saint-Petersburg Mining University, returned to her home country and is now a Consultant Geologist at Headspring Investments in Namibia. Here is her story.

Lydia was born and raised in Windhoek – the capital of Namibia. Aside from studying, she used to spend all the time at her parents’ country farm. There she explored locally occurring minerals, collected the most intriguing samples, and read about them in the school library. Having chosen geology as a future profession, the schoolgirl started looking into higher education opportunities.

There are three universities in Nambia offering engineering programs. It is worth noting, however, that there are no non-profit higher education institutions in the country. The annual fee varies but most commonly stands at about $6,500 per year – the sum that is way beyond what an average local family can afford.

Therefore when Lydia, who had scored high in the final exams, was invited to take part in the competition organized by Rossotrudnichestvo, she agreed without hesitation. As she says, it was not a quota for free studies that she wanted so much. Lydia’s family could pay for their daughter’s education, regardless of whether she would stay at home or not. It is the quality of education that makes a local degree far less valuable than that from a foreign university.

“My program’s name was ‘Applied Geochemistry, Petrology, Mineralogy’. Its graduates can solve a variety of tasks – from geological exploration to microscopic examination. Through being able to handle a wide range of issues, it is easier to get a well-paid job in the future. For instance, I can work as a petroleum geologist, engineering hydrogeologist, or geochemist.

I am lucky to have studied at Mining University, the first higher technical university in Russia with a long history. Back in the 19th century, Dmitri Mendeleev, while working on the Periodic Law, used mineral samples from among the university’s collection. And the first in Russia course on mineralogy was also established here, in the 18th century.

The university nowadays remains one of the best in its field. Students can use modern labs and research centers. They can attend lectures given by visiting professors from Europe and undergo practical training at local enterprises and even government bodies,” says Lydia.

In her fourth year, she was offered an internship at the Ministry of Mines and Energy of Namibia. As part of her assignment, the student spent two months mapping and sampling rocks from copper and gold deposits.

Over two thousand Namibians graduated from Russian educational institutions. Graduates of Soviet schools constitute an even larger number. Many moved up the career ladder with time and now head domestic enterprises.

After graduating, Lydia moved back to Namibia. First few years upon her return, she had been conducting geological studies at copper, cobalt, gold, silver deposits, and exploring diamond resource potential within the shelf area of the Atlantic. But finally, the Namibian graduate got a job offer from Headspring Investments.

The most recent of the company’s projects is aimed at developing a new deposit in the Omaheke Region. It is at the beginning stage and so far limited to assessing potential volumes of mineral reserves. Lydia is working there with three other geologists. All of them are Namibians and, what is even more surprising, graduates of Mining University. As the former student explains, a degree from this particular Russian university was a prerequisite, on which insisted the employer.

“Programs that offer local universities differ from those of St. Petersburg Mining University. Some subjects that I studied when I was in my third or fourth year, students of Namibian universities don’t get to study unless they proceed to Master’s level. I think it may explain why I got a job, and local engineers did not. There are downsides of this profession of course: it is hardly a female occupation. I spend five weeks in the field and only one week at home. This is nonetheless a life I have always dreamt of,” admits Lydia.