I don’t want to depend on men for survival, says 20-year-old female caterpillar driver

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BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO

Rachael Oluwole could not further her education after her secondary school owing to the financial incapacitation of her parents and decided to fulfill her childhood dream of operating caterpillars.

For over a year now, the 20-year-old lady has been driving different caterpillars to clear filth at dumping sites in Lagos State to the chagrin of many who had sighted her doing what she knows best to do.

Before opting to sit behind the wheels of a caterpillar, Rachael had engaged in some menial jobs including bricklaying, selling water and working at a bakery to make ends meet and assist herself in her secondary education.

The young driver was frustrated to leave school after she could not pay for her Secondary School Leaving Certificate examination.

According to her, she lost her mother when she was six years old and that her father was not financially buoyant to cater for her education and those of his siblings.

Sharing her experience in an interview, Rachael said she had been confronted by several men who had wanted to offer her money in return for sex but she declined, insisting that she was determined not to rely on men for sustenance.

According to the young driver, she drives caterpillars to clear refuse at dump sites, layout virgin land, bulldoze structures and demolish buildings among other activities.

Rachael said she was at a tender age when she informed her late mother that she would want to operate a caterpillar when she becomes an adult.

“That I drove the caterpillar is not accidental. I have seen other girls and ladies who learn hairdressing, tailoring, but when I was young, I had told my mother that I would love to be a caterpillar operator and she agreed with me before she died.

“My mother died after giving birth to our last born, Eniola. After my mother’s demise, my father asked me if I would go to school so that he could run around for my school fees but I said there was no problem. I came to Ogun State for my schooling but there was no money with me and whenever my father got anything, I would ask him to give it to my siblings that I would endure.

“When it was time for us to write WAEC, there was no money to register and I informed my father that I would want to drop out and he agreed with me. My father asked me what skill I would want to learn and I told him caterpillar operation; he asked me why and I said it is for me to be self-reliant and that I had wanted to be a caterpillar driver since childhood,” Rachael explained.

According to her, she confronted many challenges even while training to be a caterpillar operator, adding that, “For my dream to come true, I engaged in menial jobs such as bricklaying, selling water and working in a bakery.”

Speaking further at the dumping site in Ikorodu where she was passionately operating a caterpillar to clear dirt, Rachael said she raised some money through her menial jobs and paid for her WAEC fee.

Rachael said, “After writing my WAEC, I returned to Ikorodu to meet my master and ever since, I have been operating a caterpillar. I can use caterpillars to do clearing, layout, bulldoze, and demolish buildings and others.”

On the challenges she encountered while learning how to operate the equipment, Rachael responded, “I used to walk long distances to fetch water to site and most times on my way, boys harass me sexually. Also, there are times when thugs would unleash terror on the site we are working and the panic is not always palatable.

“If I see a helper, I would love to return to school and study mechanical engineering in order to enhance my skill,” she noted.

The young lady who said she has adopted a caterpillar as a “friend”, disclosed that she barely has time to unwind and visit friends.

“The work doesn’t give me time to socialise and I don’t have friends currently because most of those I had are in their schools. That’s why I have regarded caterpillars as my friend,” she said.

Advising fellow ladies to desist from engaging in sexual activities for money, Rachael said, “I want to advise my fellow girls and ladies to be serious in life by learning one skill or the other and desist from depending on men for their survival. Most ladies nowadays don’t want to work; they want to depend on men. I am not like that, I am proud of my work and I am taking care of my needs.”