STAFRANCE ZULU, Ndola
WHEN Rennie Shamambo, 30, completed Grade 12, her father asked her to take up an engineering course.She did not know exactly what to expect when she was enrolled at the Northern Technical College (NORTEC) to study heavy equipment repair in 2007.
In 2011, she was one of the six females who graduated among many male students. She was then employed by Barloworld Equipment in Lusaka and before long, the company sponsored her for further studies at Barloworld Academy in South African.
Specialising in Caterpillar brands, she emerged as best student at the end of the three-year course.
Today Ms Shamambo is a workshop technician at Barloworld in Lusaka, thanks to the Zambian Industrial Training Academy (ZAMITA), a project sponsored by the Swedish government to inspire women to embrace heavy equipment engineering courses.
Her job involves maintenance and repair of Caterpillar brands of heavy machinery.
Through the ZAMITA project, the heavy equipment repair course has been upgraded to international standards. ZAMITA is a multilateral partnership involving the Swedish government, as the primary partner responsible for finance; Volvo Construction Equipment, providing the technology and training equipment; United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and NORTEC Heavy Equipment Engineering section, which is the implementer of the project.
Engineering is the backbone of national development. It facilitates the design, construction, operation and maintenance of machines, industrial plants, planes, vehicles, roads and buildings among others. Without engineers, a country cannot achieve socio-economic development. And if the quality of engineering is inferior, the quality of infrastructure and vessels such as motor vehicles, ferries and aircrafts would be compromised.
In a developing country like Zambia, the role of engineering is crucial. For this reason, a lot of investment is needed to produce engineers and raise the profession’s profile. The cost of training engineers is, however, exorbitant whereas the course is labour-intensive for trainees.
The NORTEC is sparing no effort to ensure that it produces a dynamic cadre of young engineers. The college has created a pool of motivated trainers and acquired state-of-the art technologies at great cost.
In order to make learning and understanding easy, the college is equipped with modern training equipment which include the electrical boards, excavator and dump truck simulator, modern series Volvo engines and an excavator that was handed over to the college on May 15 this year.
It was during the handover ceremony of an excavator that progress on the ZAMITA project was collectively reviewed. Representation was drawn from across all the cooperating partners; some current students in heavy equipment repair and one eminent alumni.
During a question and answer session, the students expressed warm sentiments about the improved learning environment at the college.
Ruth Mulofwa who is pursuing heavy equipment repair, shared that she was inspired to do this course by her brother, who has since successfully graduated.
She said she had no regrets of entering the male-dominated industry because she believes that she could make a good engineer.
A set of twin-sisters Natasha and Taizya Litana, 22, conquered fear to take up a course in heavy equipment repair.
They went for it because it is a well-paying job, and they had a role model in a female cousin who is living a comfortable life.
“We were encouraged by our cousin Christabel Mwape who also did the same course. We admired her when she graduated from college; she was able to buy a house and a car in a short period of time. The course has great opportunities and it’s rewarding. As we speak, Christabel is advancing her qualifications in South Africa.” Natasha said. The twins are in their final level of their two-year eight months course.
Justin Walubita, who is pursuing a diploma in heavy equipment engineering is grateful for the opportunities that the partnership between NORTEC and cooperating partners presents to the students.
“I’m happy that the ZAMITA project has added a diploma course to the engineering course at NORTEC. We used to have a two-year certificate course and a two-year-eight-months course at technician level. But with the coming of this initiative, one can go for a further one year and three months to obtain a diploma in heavy equipment engineering,” he said.
The ZAMITA initiative has seen many female students pursuing engineering courses at NORTEC.
Vivian Kambole is another student of heavy equipment repair and the only female specialising in excavator operations.
Unlike others, she took up the course after she won a scholarship from the African Development Bank (AfDB).
“I was initially set to pursue nursing and my application was accepted at Ndola Teaching Hospital. However, my parents could not afford to pay for me. So I later learnt that NORTEC offers scholarships to female students of heavy equipment repair under the African Development Bank. The scholar has to meet entry requirements that include mathematics and two science subjects, plus any two other subjects.
“So I’m a direct beneficiary of the excavator which is being handed over to the college today,” she said.
NORTEC principal Victor Mulenga applauded the cooperating partners for choosing to help the college realise its dream of becoming a centre of excellence in engineering courses.
He was happy to note that the donated equipment would outlive the project life and therefore benefit would-be students.
“This is what the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) says; that you can be educated and also work for yourself. This is a way to interpret and supplement the efforts of our Government,” he said.
UNIDO representative Stavro Papastarou said he was greatly encouraged to see a good number of female students taking up engineering courses at NORTEC.
And first secretary at the Swedish Embassy, Cecilia Brumer, said gender equality has been at the core of her Government’s aid programmes.
‘’We have a budget of US$42 million under the Swedish government for different projects. Forty percent is deliberately reserved for projects to do with gender equality,” Ms Brumer said.
In the 7NDP, the Zambian Government targets to increase employment opportunities in rural areas and labour-intensive industries among others.
In its Vision 2030, Government wants to make Zambia a prosperous middle-income country, that will provide equal opportunities for improved wellbeing to all, without leaving anyone behind.
The ZAMITA project at NORTEC has seen 639 students successfully graduate. Of that number, 92 of them are females, 14 percentage of beneficiaries.
The NORTEC programme is creating equal economic opportunities for all Zambians and creating job opportunities as espoused in the 7NDP.
STAFRANCE ZULU, Ndola