Esethu Bhengu has found her calling – and is well on her way to making an impact on the male-dominated mining sector
Diamonds, as they say, are a girl’s best friend. For young Esethu Bhengu, it is how those beautiful stones are mined from Africa’s rich soil to become a girl’s best friend that interests her.
Esethu is in her third year of studying towards a Bachelor of Science in Geology at the University of Cape Town, a major step towards her dream of working for a diamond mining company. It was at a career expo at her school, the Inanda Seminary in Durban, when she was in Grade 11 that she was inspired by a visiting geologist.
“I was always interested in the earth’s structure, how the crust formed and the rock formations around it,” she says. “But when I learned about economic geology, which focuses on minerals, how they’re formed and how to mine them, I realised that was the area I wanted to focus on.” Now she plans to do her honours in economic geology.
Challenging the system
The fact that the mining sector is still largely male-dominated doesn’t deter Esethu. In fact, that’s exactly the reason she chose to work in the field. “A lot of women seem to shy away from male-dominated industries because they don’t feel that their voice is heard in a group of males. So I wanted to challenge the system and stand out,” she says.
Esethu is looking forward to travelling and to experiencing more of the world. “That’s another reason I chose this field of study,” she says. “You get to travel all over the world instead of just working in one place all the time. I want to see how other people live and experience other places outside South Africa.”
Her mother has always been a positive influence in her life, Esethu says. “She has always been there for me with emotional support and has taught me how to show love and how to treat people with kindness. My mom has always been my strongest supporter. Even though we don’t have that much financially, my mom has always supported me in every way that she can,” she adds.
Esethu is the oldest of her siblings and says this has impacted on the way she lives her life. “Every decision I make, I have to think about the younger ones and how it will affect them and the way that they see me.” At the same time, it’s her family that keeps Esethu motivated during the tough times.
Esethu attended Inanda Seminary in Durban and was a boarder from the age of 14. “I enjoyed school and learned a lot about responsibility and how to be accountable for your actions and how to be self-disciplined,” she says. “I learned that at the end of the day it’s all dependant on you – if you want to achieve your goals, you must have self-discipline and self-control to take action.”
Esethu says her experience at university has been eye opening. “There is so much diversity and I’ve learned a lot about other cultures and how other people live,” she says. “When you come from a certain area and that is all you know, you can be quite close-minded about what others go through in life, but being at university has opened my mind.”
She firmly believes in having positive people around her “who influence you and support you to be much greater”. If you don’t have supportive people around you, she says, you end up slacking. “The people around you make you who you are – so I don’t hang out with people who miss classes and don’t put in the effort because I don’t want to end up being like them,” she adds.
Esethu loves the personal freedom that comes with being a university student. “You can do what you want to do, there are no restrictions on how to live your life. You get to be your own person, to be independent and to make your own decisions, without anyone telling you what you must, or mustn’t do,” she says.
Being a Moshal scholar has been life changing. “I wouldn’t have been able to attend university so it has given me that opportunity,” she affirms. I’ve also learned so much from the meetings we have about team building and also study skills. It has been great so far.”
Esethu is grateful for the Moshal program support structure. “The weekly meetings are so helpful – to talk about what you’re going through academically as well as emotionally. It’s such a relief to know that you always have someone there to support you,” she says.
An avid reader, she has recently started exploring creating writing, expressing herself through poetry and literature. “You shouldn’t let fear stop you from doing what you want to do. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and experience what you want for yourself,” advises this young go-getter.