Ms Banura says she got the idea of driving a truck after seeing two female drivers in Hima, Kasese District operating trucks and she envied them. And during the lockdown which has seen schools, including her Hima Primary School, remain closed for 20 months now, she had time to venture into something else.
I found Enid Banura, a 44-year old mother of four, working to detach a 40-feet low bed trailer from the trailer tractor (locally known as the truck head or the cabin), as part of her mock exam.
After this, she is supposed to move the truck around the village on coming back, connect the cabin onto the trailer again.
“Precision is key here,” says Bwire Silver Ochiondo the senior instructor at the Safeway Rightway Driver Training Centre, which the government and oil companies have recommended to train drivers for heavy goods trucks.
Banura is one of the last seven trainees out of a batch of 120 truck drivers who are being prepared to access driver job opportunities in the nascent oil and gas sector.
The process of attaching and detaching the trailer from the tractor, technically referred to as Coupling and Decoupling, is one of the ultimate stages in the training process and one of the hardest, according to the other trainees, young men aged 25 to 35 years.
“While decoupling only needs mechanically unlocking the joints, pulling out plugs and driving the tractor away, coupling is harder because you bring the tractor back in reverse and the inter-locking points must fit into each other, otherwise it will not lock,” said one of the male trainees.
Ms Banura, accomplished this on the second try because at the first try, the two parts did not exactly fit onto each other.
“This is good performance and at every stage, Enid usually outperforms her male counterparts,” says Instructor Ochiondo, adding that perhaps at first try she failed as she could have been nervous because of the presence of strangers watching her.
He says her performance is a reflection of the female trainees, who usually have high levels of concentration, adding that more women and embracing the industry every time.
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The soft-spoken primary school teacher by profession and occupation says that she now feels ready to take on the road herself.
She says she got the idea of driving a truck after seeing two female drivers in Hima, Kasese District operating trucks and she envied them. And during the lockdown which has seen schools, including her Hima Primary School, remain closed for about 20 months now, she had time to venture into something else.
And when she heard of the training centre in near Hoima town, she decided to give it a try using her Class B driving permit as a qualification for entrance.
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On how she rates herself as far as driving a loaded or empty trailer truck on a highway, Banura says she now has the skills, saying that what matters is not moving the truck forward or backward, but minding the safety of all road users.
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“To be enrolled, one must already be a qualified driver of any vehicle class, as we do not take on a person who has no driving skills at all,” says Ochiondo.
The oil and gas sector is expected to offer at least 2,500 job opportunities for heavy goods truck drivers, including moving equipment from the coast to the oil fields in the Lake Albert basin or delivering to projects like the crude oil pipeline, among others.
But for her, with or without a job with an oil company, she is now convinced that her next duty will be of a truck driver, and not in the classroom.
“Teaching is a good job. But now we have been out of school for two years and do not know when the schools will not re-open,” she says.
She is one of the thousands of teachers who have given up their occupation over the last 20 months due to the uncertainty of the future of the sector. But for others, it is the realization that actually, there are other activities, less honorable as they may appear, that are more paying than teaching.
And for a married woman like Banura, this might cause discomfort among the community or her family.
“Everyone related to me has encouraged me. My husband is an engineer at Hima Cement, and so it is not strange to him for a woman to drive a truck,” she says, adding that while she went into it as something exciting, she has now decided that truck-driving will be her next job.
She also has a word for women and especially young women regarding employment, saying that today, no job should be regarded as ‘men-only’ because what a man can do a woman can do.
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Ochiondo says two female trainees have so far graduated and and already employed by different companies, and according to him, doing better than most male counterparts.
At the national level, Safeway Rightway has so far trained 16 female drivers in the last four months.
Safeway Rightway has so far trained 400 drivers, including the 120 at their Hoima facility, mainly from the six districts on Buliisa, Hoima, Kikuube, Masindi, Nwoya and Pakwach in the Albertine Grabben as part of the local content policy.
The centre and its activities are funded by the World Bank, the Private Sector Foundation Uganda, the Skills Development Facility, as well a Total Energies which is operating the Tilenga Project.
A similar model of driving skills development is being conducted by the Driving Standards Agency for the Kingfisher Project operated by CNOOC further south of the Grabben.