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Monday, January 30, 2023

“I had a queen’s drive to the Training School”, Humu tells the story of her journey to becoming a fire appliance driver.

The absence of women in the heavy duty driving space in the Northern region of Ghana, the zeal of not giving up on a dream even when formal education did not offer that opportunity, and the desire to prove a point to herself were the push factors she needed to kick start a life changing career.

Humu Mohammed is a former student of the Saint Mary Vocational Institute in Tamale. She studied Advanced Catering after her Senior High School education at the T.I Ahmadiya Senior High School in Salaga in the now Savanna region where she studied catering.

“My vision, from childhood period, I wanted to become a pilot but they told me without geography, one could not become a pilot because you would not be admitted into any aviation school so I decided to join the heavy duty tracks because I had not seen a woman drive one before”.

The 6.55ft tall Humu desire to drive heavy duty vehicles was ignited by the sight of a female trailer driver from Burkina Faso.

“Once in my life I saw a woman with a trailer passing through Tamale from Burkina Faso, she came down from the vehicle to buy something and then I told myself if she can do it then I can also do more than that”.

Humu was trained as a driver by the Metro Mass Transit in Tamale in 2011 as the only female driver at the time. She subsequently underwent her mandatory internship in 2012.

In 2015, she landed herself a place in the Ghana National Fire in the Savelugu District Fire Service as a recruit under the Security model of the National Youth Employment.

“We are not recruiting private car drivers, how can a small girl like you drive an appliance.” Similar comments were passed about her when it was her turn to go behind the steering wheel.

Though all the applicants who had taken their turn at the driving test had been supported in a way, hers was a time of reckoning.

Before I stepped forward to drive, I mentioned the engine, “it was ZF engine”.

Fear, doubt, and anxiety were written on the faces of both recruiters and applicants as she majestically made her way towards the appliance.

The appliance was an ignition which needed no key and again, they were taken aback when she did not demand for a key.

“I did not ask the recruiters for the keys to the car because it’s an ignition, the recruiters did not think I knew that because the men applicants who took their turns before me had asked for the key”.

With a calm composure and pride, the “little girl” moved the double aisled “beast” to the admiration of all.

And that landed her the first slot among twelve drivers who had been shortlisted for the recruitment. She was posted to the Tamale Metro Fire Division.

But in as much as she had fallen in love with fire appliances, another hurdle starred her in the face, suppressing her desire of sitting behind the driving steer of the appliances.

“At the Metro station, I was never allowed to drive an appliance; I was told they could be queried for allowing a recruit under the Youth Employment to drive”.

Instead, she was assigned the Fire Safety Department pick up which she drove for almost one year.  Just around that time, 2016 recruitment had opened.

“I was in the office one day when my Commander at the time showed me the recruitment announcement in the Daily Graphic and asked if I possessed the required documents which I answered in the affirmative”.

At this point her dream seemed nearer than she thought. She put in an application and was shortlisted for the recruitment.

None could overlook her presence at the premises of the Northern Regional Headquarters.

“I had become the people’s favourite and they touted my exploits at the first recruitment”, she said smiling.

At the recruitment, her human instinct played at her.

“I told the men to take their turns first because I knew they would be disqualified if I took the first turn”.

Basic driving per training, a driver checks on the tyres when day breaks, open the bonnet to check water and brake fluid levels.

“I first went behind the car to check the back tyres, then the front, opened the bonnet and checked my water and brake fluid then when I sat in, I noticed the mirrors were not positioned well so fixed my side and requested the instructor to fix the other side for me”.

“Aaaaahhh, can you even drive it….” the reply she received from the instructor when she enquired if she could use one hand to drive.

Again, she proved herself and this time the instructor rather wondered, questioning her whether she was a man or a “woman”.

Humu returned home that day all confident that she would receive a yes from the G.N.F.S Headquarters following her awesome display.

“Because I was awarded a high grade after the driving test and right there the commander informed the then Chief Fire Officer Dr. Albert Brown Gasie of “a lady from Tamale who has been very impressive”.

But like the old adage, each person and the devil they are fighting.

Days run into months, some of the people she applied with had received recruitment confirmation but she had nothing to show.

“I wept severally in my room, I even went for military recruitment as well but none of these services had written to me”.

One midnight as she turned and tossed on her mattress in her father’s house, she heard a knock on her door. Scared and wondering who that could be, she reluctantly reached for her door and there parked a Ghana National Fire Service branded vehicle.

“’We have been asked by our regional commander ACFO Godwin Damalie to pick you to the Fire Service Training School in Accra’. The message conveyed to me by the two officers on the last day of reporting at the training school.

“I wept when they broke the news because I had searched for that job for long without getting”, said Humu as she recounted those rare moments.

With just a few clothes, she bid her father goodbye and hopped into the pickup.

“I got a queen’s drive from my home in Tamale to the training school in James Town in Accra, I did not believe I was given that queenly treatment by the service”.

Just when she thought the moments of getting intimate with her lifetime love, another challenged beckoned. `

“I had been replaced with a lady who was not a driver when I arrived at the training school and for three days, I had no idea what laid ahead of me”.

The unknown fate coupled with discrimination meted out by some colleagues who saw her as a threat made the once excited lady wish she could return home to her small room.

“I called my father and told him I was returning home but he stopped me and just around that time, the military also sent a team to my house to get me for training”.

When finally the dust settled for her, she stayed focused, persevered, and won the battle and in nine months, she became a fully fledged fire appliance driver, the first in the Northern region and the only in Ghana, according to the Northern Regional Fire Officer D.O 1 Emmanuel Ofori-adjei.

Speaking to www.zamireports.com , D.O 1 Emmanuel Ofori-adjei stressed, “she is my best driver, there is a way to park when you arrive at fire scenes, your back must face the fire so that you can move quickly in case the fire spreads and she does that perfectly”.

To motivate Humu and other females in the Service, she was sponsored by the Service to undertake a pilgrimage to Makkah, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the 2019 Hajj.

The Ghana National Fire Service has many motivational plans specifically for Humu which would have been rolled out by now but for the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. Ofori-adjei hinted.

The married woman attributed her success to “an understanding and supportive husband and superiors”.

“My husband trained me to drive heavy duty vehicles, identify engines without opening the bonnet, and how to maintain such vehicles”.

“And my bosses have been helpful, the former Chief Officer nearly sacked the commander at the training school when he noticed I had been replaced”.

Fire woman  Humu is currently stationed at the Northern Regional Headquarters of the Ghana National Fire Service.

Zubaida Afua Mabuno Ismail|www.zamireports.com|Tamale.

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