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She is one woman that has decided to be different. To her, the saying, ‘what a man can do, a woman can do even better’ isn’t just a cliché. She walks and works in a man’s world, and has made a huge success of it. Her name is Sandra Aguebor, and she’s regarded as Nigeria’s first female mechanic.
And through her efforts, very soon, female motor mechanics might dominate the automobile industry in Nigeria, with the recent campaign by Aguebor who is also the founder, Lady Mechanic Initiative (LMI).
Working in collaboration with MacAthur Foundation based in the United States, her group launched a catch-them-young programme tagged, After School Club Project, for public schools in Lagos State to groom young female students for gainful employment.
At the induction ceremony of 30 female students drawn from Government Technical College, Agidingbi, Ikeja, Oregun Junior High School and Agidingbi Junior Grammar School, Aguebor recalled her humble beginning as a motor mechanic. In her words at the event, according priority to technical skills would reduce the high unemployment in the country. The woman informed her audience that she started her apprenticeship in a motor mechanic workshop during her early days in secondary school, a decision she never regretted till date.
The induction ceremony, which was held at the premises of GTC, Agidingbi, had in attendance board members of the Lady Mechanic Initiative, alumni members of the group, other female mechanics, principals of the participating schools and other eminent guests.
Aguebor said her group established a partnership with the Lagos State Technical and Vocational Education Board (LASTVEB) to commence the programme, noting that the project was introduced to the benefiting students at no cost. She said the students would rather become members of the parent body, the Lady Mechanic Initiative and have access to its numerous empowerment programme for women.
“The inducted students are now pioneer members of the Lady Mechanic After School Club. The club is all about imparting technical skills to the young students at the early stage of their education in secondary schools. From JS 2 to JS3, they will be able to know how automobile works, how vehicles move, what makes the tyres roll and so on,” she said.
Aguebor said the project would equally educate the students on the dynamics of automobile industry, which would influence their choice of engineering courses at the tertiary level of their education. According to her, only students in the junior secondary school were selected for the project, so that when they get to secondary school, they would make informed decisions on their career choices.
“I believe that science rules the world. But a lot of times, females are hard to find in engineering courses. The Lady Mechanic Initiative will bring technical skills to the doorsteps of secondary schools by giving them the practical knowledge of the course. This will help the female students to know that engineering is not difficult as they presume. Science is not only for men. By building this confidence in them at this stage, they will achieve a fulfilling career in engineering related courses”, she said.
She said the project would involve providing the participating students with their workshop kiths, working tools, reading materials and other equipment they need. He lauded the sponsor of the project, MacArthur Foundation for the support that made the project possible.
Aside the school project, Aguebor said the Lady Mechanic Initiative had been working tirelessly to empower women to become skilful motor mechanics, generator repairers, experts in household water pumping machine repairs, skilful drivers, as well as experts in speed boat engines repairs in the coastal areas, among others.
“We want to reduce social vices involving women by providing them with a sustainable means of livelihood. This will go a long way in reducing unemployment at the family level and its attendant social problems. We are contributing our quota to national development. We want to do more. This is just a pilot project. We intend to get the government involved in this project, as well as corporate bodies to see how we can reach out to many schools in the country”, she added.
Also speaking, the Principal, GTC, Agidingbi, Mrs Ode Belinda, admitted that students have low interest in engineering trades offered in the school. Most of the female students, she said, prefer the catering and garments section. She expressed satisfaction that the project would revive the declining interest in engineering courses by female students.
“I believe that it is ignorance that makes us think that certain professions are meant for boys and some for girls. Even at home, we are guilty of it too. When we are buying toys for our children, we buy a doll baby for the girl child and a motorcar for the boy. So, right from the home, the society appears partial in their judgment,” she explained.
Ode said she permitted her school to host the programme and to also donate a workshop to the participants because early exposure of the female students to the rudiments of automobile work would help them to choose engineering programmes in their senior secondary school.
“I have been coming in contact with the lady mechanic in programmes outside here. I saw her as a focused person. She has a lot of passion for the job and she stands as a role model for the young models. She preaches hard work, a message that is highly relevant to our young girls. Since she is a success, I keyed into her programmes,” she said.
The principal also commended the Lagos State government for the fantastic work of reforming technical education. She said technical colleges in the state were equipped to standard in compliance with government’s vision of exposing students to quality education.