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Liberia: BWI Student, Mother, Operates Caterpillar

Student Patience Y. Saye on duty

KAKATA, MARGIBI – The arrival of a Chinese construction company into Liberia in 2008 appears the conduit for the realization of the ‘heavy duty dream’ of 28-year-old student Patience Y. Saye, a native of Nimba County, in Northern Liberia.

By Samuel G. Dweh/freelance journalist (+231) 886-618-906/ (+231) 776-583-266; [email protected])

“I had always dreamed of operating a heavy-duty machine, and this Chinese road construction company, CICO, has turned this dream into reality,” Patience told this writer during an interview on December 15, 2018 at her work place in Margibi County.

A final-year ‘technical’ student at the Booker Washington Institute (BWI), in Kakata, Margibi County’s capital, Patience had just parked her ‘yellow machine’—the popular name for Caterpillar in Liberia—in an assembly line of different earth-moving machines, after drilling the equipment to the admiration of her male and female colleagues, her Chinese trainers, and to the shock of this writer.

“At BWI, I’m studying Heavy Duty, a Course on repairs and operation of any earth-moving machines, like caterpillar,” she added and chuckled. “I’m on internship at CICO.”

On duty, Patience was in her learning suit’—yellow helmet, red-and-yellow vest covering a long-sleeve pink blouse,  blue jeans trouser, and blue sneakers.

“Call the names of some of the parts of the yellow machine you just operated,  as proofs to me on your being a Heavy Duty student at BWI,” this writer threw a challenge to the lady.

“Where you saw me sitting, when I was moving the Caterpillar, is called Cabin,” she answered, and rolled her forefinger along the body of the crane-like that picks load. “From the base, beginning from the Cabin area, to here is the Boom. From the Boom to here is the Stick. And the load carrier is called Dish,” she taught.

A mother of a three-year-old female child, Patience said she’s looking beyond CICO for permanent job, after she had gained mastery of operation of heavy-duty machines at this Chinese Company.

“I want to operate the yellow machine at Tokata iron Ore Mountain, located in my County, Nimba, which is currently being mined by ArcelorMittal,” she disclosed.

Why did the 28-year-old mother pick out caterpillar operation, a job most Liberians feel is a ‘man’s job’?

She explained: “I picked out Caterpillar operations for several reasons. The first reason is love for the profession. I love being working on and driving heavy-duty machines, especially Caterpillars. The second reason is to make a statement to the men: A woman can do what a man can do, except what the Creator has reserved exclusively for the man. I guess you understand what I mean. Operating any heavy-duty machines does not require physical strength or muscles, as some men think. Technology has made it easier, even a baby can control the steering. The third reason is livelihood. I’m learning this job to earn money, so that I will always be in a position to provide my family’s needs, whether I’m a single woman, or married. Care for the family shouldn’t be left with the man alone.”

Patience was one of several Liberians, all in CICO’s ‘construction suit’, gathered at different locations within a 40-acre-land space.

“I’m in the security guard department and just being released from night shift,” a lady, identified as Deddeh Taitee, 29, a mother of a three-year-old male child, said to this writer.

Another one gave me ‘Martin L.K. Konnie, as his name, and ‘The General Supervisor’ as his title, over the Liberian set of workers. He said he’s trained road engineer and a driver of “light-duty machines—pick-ups, taxis, and other cars.

“We are CICO’s workers, sent her to take part in the ground breaking ceremony for a Plywood Factory by another Chinese Company, called Shangyou Wood,” Martin added.

The Head Office of CICO—Chongqing International Construction Corporation—is partially visible over a white fence in the King Gray Community along the Robertsfields Highway, outside of Monrovia.

“We are mostly into road construction and maintenance, with around 100 Liberian employees. Women constitute twenty percent of our workforce,” Mr. Jim Yongsheng, Assistant to the Company’s General Manager, had told journalists at CICO’s Head office on December 12, 2018.

Mr. Yongsheng said projects his Company received from the Liberian Government are financed by the World Bank.

Some of CICO’s footprints are: Vai Town Bridge, Caldwell road, rehabilitation and maintenance of the 180-kilometer Rightlight (Monteserrado County)-15 Gate (Bong County) road.

USD166 had been budgeted for these projects, Jim disclosed.

There are challenges, the Chinese official spokesperson said to his guests.

“One of the challenges is Language barriers. A lot of the Chinese here to work can’t speak English, and the Liberian staff can’t speak Chinese,” he stated.

Presence of many roads or road networks in a Country engenders riches for a large number of citizens, Mr. Yongsheng told this writer in an exclusive interview. “In my Country, China, there is a cultural saying: ‘If you want to make a person rich, first build road for the person’. That’s the reason many small, small road construction companies are springing up in China nearly every day,” he lectured.