Putting it all on the line

Teaching driving in a male-dominated field
The entrepreneur Hilaria Erastus left her job of 16 years to open a driving academy, where she is dedicated to helping women and men become independent by learning to drive.
Mariud Ngula
Hilaria Erastus is a go-getter who quit her 16-year corporate career as a human resource and payroll administrator to become a full-time entrepreneur.

Erastus is the owner of the Hilaria Driving School Academy (HDA), founded in 2018 in Okahandja. Her driving school employs only female staff members. She is a mother of four and the sole breadwinner.

"At HDA, we train women how to drive and to become confident drivers. Even though we are not fully out of the woods yet, we have been going strong for six years."

Learning curves

Erastus said it takes hard work to be a woman who ventures into a male-dominated industry.

She encountered challenges at the very start and had to teach herself to teach her clients. "Despite the challenges and criticisms received, I persevered. I also got to prove some men, who first doubted my capabilities when they realised that I am also the instructor, wrong."

She described her journey to becoming an entrepreneur as unique and said it involved hanging up her high heels and putting on her boots and overalls.

"Together with my fellow sisters, we help both men and women learn how to start a car until they are competent enough to be on the road," said Erastus.

Helping the vulnerable

Erastus is one of the founders of the Tulipamwe Charity Foundation in Okahandja, where they help distribute food, milk and diapers to vulnerable children living with hydrocephalus.

Together with her associate, Kauna Nikodemus, they also give free learner licence classes to learners who cannot afford the fees at Okahandja Secondary School.

"I recently sponsored driving lessons and learner lessons for our top goalscorer in the Namibian Newspaper Cup, who represented Okahandja and the Grace Tuahepa school. She got her licence last week during the midterm break."

She is also a road safety marshal in Okahandja, together with the Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) Fund. Here, they operate under the mentorship of Jones Lutombi, the accident and injury manager.

The initiative was launched in March, and together with Nikodemus, they assist with road crossings for school learners who are at risk as the area is situated close to the busy B2 national road.

"The traffic unit of the Namibian Police, specifically sergeant Benyamin Hobegab, gives us additional assistance."

Aspirations and suggestions

Erastus said she looks forward to having a full-fleet academy and also training more instructors in the future.

She plans to get a CE truck, as most clients have requested it.

She also urges the government to consider implementing driving and learner classes as part of the Namibian school curriculum.

"Most people are graduating and cannot find jobs because they do not have driver’s licences. We should at least tackle this while they are still in secondary education and going to university with licences,” she said.

Erastus pointed out that another need is for the transport ministry to regulate driving schools in Namibia “so our women are safe around men too.”

She added that as for companies, “why not implement a three-month probation that sends the successful candidates for vacancies to a driving school instead of facing outright rejection?"