When Boiketo Mazibeli arrived in Perth to study at Curtin, she was prepared for the city’s high cost of living. The mining engineering student found a job to help cover her day-to-day expenses, while her sister back in Zimbabwe assisted with her course fees.
Boiketo’s decision to study mining engineering in Australia was not made lightly. With a young daughter to think about, she was determined to pursue a career that could support them both.
“I didn’t want to go to uni at first. I wanted to do a course where I would get to finish early, so I could be independent and take care of my daughter.”
After completing a diploma in mining in Zimbabwe, Boiketo realised her job prospects at home were underwhelming. The local industry offered very few opportunities. After finding out about different universities, Boiketo felt that Curtin would give her the best chance of breaking into the industry.
“From what I’ve seen, people I’ve met and things I’ve read up, Australia has one of the best mining practices around. It’s said to be one of the safest mining places to work in the world,” she says.
Boiketo made the difficult choice to leave her child in her sister’s care and study in Perth. The young family Skype every week, but due to time and monetary constraints, haven’t seen each other in person since the move.
Apart from homesickness and the sadness of being separated from her daughter, Boiketo says the transition to life in Australia was relatively easy. The conscientious student enjoyed volunteering (when time permitted), and made good friends at the International Mining Games in Kalgoorlie.
Then everything changed. Boiketo’s sister suddenly lost her job in Zimbabwe, leaving a gaping hole in the undergraduate student’s finances. Struggling to pay her university fees on top of rent and food, Boiketo’s studies soon began to suffer.
“I had to miss out on some very important things that took place within the classroom or laboratory environment, just because I had to be at work to pay up fees,” she remembers.
“I was really struggling to pay my fees and it was getting hard for me to cope, so I applied for a payment plan.”
Boiketo met with Student Fees Officer Nicole Stewart at the Curtin Fees Centre. With Nicole’s help, she received financial assistance through Curtin’s staff-supported Give to Change program. This assistance has had a huge impact on the aspiring mining engineer.
“To be honest it’s a big relief. I don’t get to miss out anymore,” she says. “I’m not even really sure how to show how grateful I am.”
Boiketo says the support saved her from dropping some of her units, a move that could have compromised her studies and affected the duration of her visa.
The Zimbabwean student still misses her daughter, but says some advice from her own mother helps her through the hard times.
“Everything that happens is a phase; it’ll pass. My mum tells me that all the time. And when something gets worse, you know that you’re being prepared for something that’s way better, something that’s good.”
Above all, Boiketo says she looks forward to being with her daughter again.
“At the moment I want to complete my studies and get a good job in Australia or Zimbabwe – wherever I can have her with me.”