The pass rate of Wits mining engineering first year students has increased from 2009 to 2010, according to the head of school, Professor Fred Cawood.

In 2010 the pass rate of first year students to second year was 42%, an improvement from 38% in 2009. The school of engineering has a mentorship programme which Cawood believes is “important”.

“Each first and second year student in the school has a mentor on the staff, and the student body forms a different level of mentorship. It’s a programme unique to the school of mining,” he says.

First year student Collen Kubayi said the programme is good. “We tell them about our problems and our experiences with lecturers and they help us with that.” Kubayi said the course was difficult but “nice”.

But Cawood said the overall pass rate was still unacceptable, “It is not right that only 40% of students go through to second year.”

Another first year student, Selepe Phuti, agreed and said the low pass rate in the course was not good. “It shows that you need to improve and work well to make it to the next year.”

Cawood said the main reasons for the low pass rate in the school were poor high school education and lack of financial aid for first year students.

 “Most of our students come from the public school system. We have our doubts on how some of the core subjects like science and mathematics are taught in rural state schools.”

Cawood added that financial assistance is critical for students’ success. “When you have needy students and they get assistance, then they perform. So the hurdle is financial support.”

He said the pass rate for mining engineering should be “at least a 70% progression from first to second year”.

He added that the pass rates in the other schools of engineering were much better.