SPOTLIGHT ON YOUTH DEVELOPMENT: MEET TSHEPISO MAPOULO

As an organisation that strives to empower all South Africans with opportunities for growth and development, Exxaro invests significantly in the future leaders of the country, namely our youth population.

The mining leader believes in the power of the youth, and their responsibility to shape and lead Africa into a positive, equal and sustainable tomorrow. Take Tshepiso Mapoulo for example; the 28-year-old Value Chain Integration Lead at Belfast Coal Mine was once an Exxaro bursary recipient who has gone on to achieve great things.

Tshepiso is responsible for the optimisation and integration of all core value chain departments within Belfast, Exxaro’s digital and connected mine. The young miner skillfully identifies bottlenecks and has to treat each impact without compromising the mine’s value chain flow – a daunting task indeed.

Growing up in Kwa-Thema, a township south-west of Springs, Tshepiso dreamed of following his grandfather’s footsteps and becoming a metallurgist. Yet, it was his father who encouraged him to apply for Exxaro’s bursary programme after seeing an advert in a Sunday newspaper.

“I first applied for Exxaro’s bridging programme, which was a one-year programme at the University of Pretoria. I managed to work hard and get into the main bursary the following year,” Tshepiso explained.

Through the programme, he went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree (BEng) in Metallurgical Engineering and Material Science at the University of Pretoria. When asked about his experience of being an Exxaro bursar, Tshepiso commented, “The initiative has given me a better life and allowed me to seek opportunities to grow from both a career and life perspective. I am currently wrapping up my master’s degree, and I believe the opportunity Exxaro gave me made this possible.”

“This programme gives hope to the youth in disadvantaged communities that they can pursue their dreams by studying their desired courses in university. One bursary has a massive impact not only on that student’s life but also on the student’s immediate family. Being able to study without the burden of finances impacting our families back in the townships is incredible,” he added.

After his studies, Tshepiso started as a professional-in-training (PIT) at North Block Complex (NBC) before moving to Mafube to expose the plant metallurgist to different business units and workplace cultures. He was also invited to join Exxaro’s PIT Symposium in 2016 where he collaborated with other PITs on exercises around current global mining trends.

Tshepiso’s journey at Exxaro so far has taught him to respect everyone he interacts with, no matter their job designation, race, gender or culture. “I learnt the real meaning of accountability, responsibility and ownership very quickly after joining Exxaro. The work I put in is a reflection of how I am viewed by my colleagues and my manager, and I want to make them and myself proud.”

His advice for the current bursars? “Make the sacrifice to study hard now so you can reap the rich rewards in the future. Put in the hours, put in the hard work, and most importantly, try to balance your schoolwork and your life.”

Tshepiso concluded by stressing the importance of education, saying, “Education is an asset that can never be taken away from you. It gives you a foundation for life and teaches you a logical thinking process you can apply in many different scenarios. A future without education is a future of frustration, unemployment and depression for our youth. Education is truly the key to success.” 

In 2019, Exxaro invested a total of R224 million in job-related bursaries and scholarships.