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UPIK’s Grace Tabaaza shines in Petroleum lecturing

Grace Tabaaza undertakes a lecture at Uganda Petroleum Intistiute Kigumba. She teaches Health Saafety and Environment. Photo by Sunday

Grace Tabaaza painfully left her babies
in Kampala and went to Kiryandogo, West of Uganda, to Uganda Petroleum
Institute Kigumba (UPIK) to retrieve studies

The mother of two decided to take up
the opportunity to realize her dream of joining Uganda’s petroleum industry.

Her first born was 2 while her second
born was 1 year old. She wined her baby off breast milk, boarded the bus from
Kampala where her family was to UPIK, 200 kilometres away to begin a two-year
course.

UPIK is a government aided tertiary Institution under the Ministry
of Education and Sports. UPIK is mandated to train technicians in Oil and Gas
operations and maintenance programmes. Currently the Institute is
running three two-year Diploma programmes in Oil and Gas.  The institute has a Diploma in Petroleum Engineering
(DPE), a Diploma in Upstream Petroleum Operations (DUPO) and a Diploma in
Downstream Petroleum Operations (DDPO).

Tabaaza left the children with her
husband to start school. She was among the pioneer students of Uganda Petroleum
Institute Kigumba where she completed a diploma in Petroleum Studies in 2011. She
managed to obtain a first class diploma and it is on that basis that the
institute decided to retain her as a lecturer.

“I missed my family. I lost weight. I was
always worried about my children’s welfare. However, my husband was very
supportive. If he wasn’t, I would have dropped out to go and look after my
children” she says.

Asked how she managed to outshine her
fellow students to attain a first class, Ms Tabaaza says she concentrated on
studies and taped into the knowledge of her lecturers and students.

“The institute is out of town. There
are fewer distractions here. I put lots of efforts to read and discuss with my
fellow students” she says.

Being pioneers, the students found a
less equipped institute with inadequate text books and computers to facilitate
teaching and learning. They thus relied on group discussions to share knowledge
on the sector.

Ambition:

Her ambition is to support efforts of
conserving the environment amidst Uganda’s oil and gas developments.

As we enjoy oil discoveries and
productions, she says, there is need to secure our people and the environment.

She lectures Environment, Health and
Safety (EHS) at UPIK and she hopes to instill the discipline of preserving the
environment among her students.

“Am sure they will be a voice of conservation
wherever they go,“she says.

She believes that oil developments
should not disadvantage agriculture, environment, tourism and other sectors of
the economy because oil is a finite resource that will get depleted unlike agriculture
and tourism.

Uganda hopes that the current oil
discoveries will sustain commercial production between 20 to 30 years.

As she joined the institute, she had
hoped to be employed directly by the oil and gas companies that are operating
in Uganda. However that did not materialize sine she ended up in the teaching
profession.

“However I am not disappointed since I
am making a contribution to the oil industry through teaching students who will
serve the industry directly or indirectly” she says.

Ms. Tabaaza was the only female in her
intake. That came with its own challenges.

“I would at times feel out of place,
seeing only men around me. However, later, I accepted the situation and begun
to see them as my brothers,” she says.

Education journey:

She completed her Primary Education at
Rusikizi Primary school in 1992 in Kabaale district. She later joined Kigezi
High school where she completed her O’ Level.

In 2001, she completed her Advanced
level at Bishops Girls School in Kabaale district.

However, her first attempt to sit for
A level exams at Standard High Zana in 1999 did not yield the results she
wanted to join University or a tertiary institution of her choice.

She completed a Bachelor’s degree in
Forestry and Nature conservation in 2006. The degree made her appreciate and
love the Environment.

This year, she is due to complete her
Master’s degree in Environment and Natural Resources which she has been
studying on part time since she spends most days of the week lecturing at UPIK.

She is well disciplined and hard
working. She motivates students especially ladies” says James Bagaya, the UPIK
Academic Registrar.

As Uganda’s oil industry takes shape,
Tabaaza is an example of how committed and resilient young people can attain
the skills they need to join the oil industry directly or indirectly.

Given the fact that oil is being
explored in an ecologically fragile area in the Albertine basin, her skills and
passion for  environment, health and
safety are crucial to the sector.

Oil
in Uganda correspondent, Bunyoro

ENDS