Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: Epifania Kazuzuru - a Woman Conquering the Skies

IT never dawned in Epifania Jacob Kazuzuru's mind that mere obedience to her mother could mark a watershed into realising her dreams.

What looked like a normal day for the Tanzanian teenager, waiting to join university after passing her Advanced level with flying colours, turned out to be a catapult into her destiny. It was on a Friday afternoon, in July 2006, when she left home after her mother had sent her to go and collect a parcel from a conductor of an upcountry bus that had been sent from their home village.

As if fate had it, she braved the sweltering heat of Dar es Salaam to walk from home to the bus stop. When she arrived at Riverside Bus Stop, ready to get a bus to Ubungo terminus, she met a longtime friend, Samuel Masuba. They had attended the same primary school at Ubungo Kisiwani Primary School, and after exchanging greetings, Samuel showed her a newspaper cutting that he later gladly handed over to her, to try her luck.

Though the contents of the cutting revealed that there were four scholarships being availed by Precision Air, for all qualifying people to apply, Epifania did not believe that she could be one of them. So, she kept the cutting for a month hesitating to apply. "I was not positive about it.

They needed only four people for the scholarships. It was my dream to become a pilot but something just held me back," said the soft spoken Epifania, adding that it took the intervention of her sister for her to apply. "One day, I was talking to my sister and she told me that I wouldn't lose anything by trying. So I prayed first before applying," she said. "When they called me for the interview, we were seated with my aunt and my mom.

I was so excited and we prayed about it. So I had confidence going for the interview." She also remembers that they were 15 during the interview and the organization wanted only four people. They also wanted people who were under 25 years of age who had majored in physics and mathematics.

"When they called informing me that I had passed the interview, I was really excited because I had no connection what so ever at Precision. I knew it was God's doing." Born in Dar es Salaam, Epifania enrolled at Ubungo Kisiwani Primary School in 1993 before completing her primary education in 1999.

She then joined Msalato Secondary School based in Dodoma, in 2000, where she completed both her Ordinary and Advanced levels. Hailing from Kigoma, Epifania's journey to conquer the skies began with a yearlong technical course in France which she attended in the year 2007 to 2008.

After successfully completing the studies in France, she immediately joined Progress Flight Academy in South Africa from July 2008 and successfully finished her course in 2010. Though the going was not always smooth for the young lady at the academy, she had to soldier on for her to realize her dream. "There are some days I would wake up while at the academy and get disappointed.

Sometimes the course became tough and the mere thoughts of failing to make it were not good. "If it's not your dream, then you would give up because you would think that you won't progress," said Epifania, adding, "The most memorable day is my first solo flight. I, together with my instructor, had practiced for an hour and he instructed me to park the aeroplane. But when we were about to park, he said, 'go for yourself.'"

Bubbling with confidence and without hesitation as she felt ripe for the task, Epifania took it to the skies without any problem. She was never disturbed nor had fear engulfed her until the plane came to a halt after a smooth landing. "When I finally landed, I was shocked, trembling and sweating. I couldn't believe it because I had just completed a flight alone.

It is when reality began to dawn on me that I had accomplished the flight alone. I began to realize that I had just completed a solo flight." The course at the flight school ended without any eventuality and it was time to live her dream. A first Officer at Precision Air, Epifania, popularly known as Epy among her colleagues, has flown about 1 900 hours and is rated on ATR 42 and 72 aircrafts. She can also fly the Pipper Seminoel among others.

"My mother was very supportive but was scared as she considered it dangerous. During my first days after college, she always told me to be careful but now she is getting used to it. She no longer keeps track as she used to stay awake until I came back from work.

"To assure her that the job was not as dangerous as she thought, I booked her a flight I was operating and from that day she is no longer worried," said Epy. The ever smiling pilot says she dreams to become a captain and start a flight school. Asked on her dream plane to fly, Epifania said Boeing 747 is a bird she should fly.

Having flown to Kenya, Uganda, and Comoros and around Tanzania, Epifania said one of the most challenging airports she has ever used is Musoma which according to her is tricky because when approaching the runway there is a big tree and you can't go low because of it and when taking off there is a hill and a big antenna. The fourth born in a family of five siblings, Epifania hails the support she gets from her family.

"I have had tremendous support from my family and I really don't know how to thank them." She also extended her gratitude to the Group Managing Director & CEO of Precision Air Services, Alfonse Kioko, for initiating the scholarship programme. Epifania has had different experiences as a pilot and she vividly remembers that one day when she was just coming out to supervise the refueling of the aeroplane, the captain was inside and she came across a certain lady passenger who was shocked to see her and asked, "You are a kid.

How are you going to fly us? I am not comfortable being flown by a kid." But, after assuring her that everything will be okay, the lady was convinced. Asked on what advice she would give to other women, Epifania had this to say, "Don't give up and be the best in whatever you are.

In order to succeed you have to give the best. In school it was hard but I never gave up." The young pilot draws her inspiration from her late father, who passed away on July 13, 2001. "My father told me to go to school and give it my best. He was my inspiration.

I owe my success to him. He used to have his own way of seeing things. The best thing he gave me was education" Epifania said. Epy takes time to swim and sometimes go to the gym to keep fit. She also loves reading novels and enjoys traveling.

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