Driving lesson

SPOTLIGHT: Meet Benjamin, the medical student who drives a dump truck

Not everyone is lucky enough to be born with a silver spoon. Some people have to fight through thick and thin to make ends meet, and Chinedum Benjamin falls into that category.

Despite his lackluster track record, Benjamin, a final year medical and surgical student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), continued to counter the odds.

The medical student juggles several menial jobs to support his studies and his family, one of which is driving a dump truck.

In this interview, Benjamin tells TheCable Lifestyle about his dreams of becoming an obstetrician and gynecologist, driving a dump truck, life’s challenges and how he weathered the storms.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Can we meet you?

I am from Ebe, Udi local government in Enugu state. I am currently a final year medical and surgical student at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH). I was born into a poor family of six children – 3 boys and 3 girls. I am the last child. We lived in a place called Pottery in Iva Valley, Enugu.

Can you tell us about your childhood, your education and your childhood memories?

My father is now late. He was a mason, while my mother sold bitter leaves. The rest of my siblings also worked part-time and worked in companies, not for the government. We helped them because what they were doing was enough to feed themselves, but not enough to educate and do other things. When I was younger, I helped prepare the vegetables (bitter leaf).

Sometimes I went to sell in a convenience store or followed my father to work to mix cement and sand. There was a creek where the dumpster drivers came to load sand and gravel, sometimes I would go there when I was 5 or 6 to sell bound water – not bagged water. We will take nylon, pour water on it and put it in the freezer to sell when it gets cold.

It continued from when I was about six until I was twelve. In fifth grade, I decided that I wanted to become a priest. At that time, I was one of the altar boys who served mass. I was in love with the priesthood, hence my decision to become a priest. I also had the second option of becoming a doctor.

After my six primary exams, I got the seminary form, but my father was sick during that time. The day after I bought the form, my dad was in the hospital and he died a day or two after I bought the form, so I didn’t fill it out.

I decided not to go back there because I didn’t want my mother to carry the burden alone because I knew it would cost her dearly. So, I returned the form, took the common entrance exams and went to secondary school. In high school, I had good friends who helped me because this neighborhood was more like a ghetto.

Why did you decide to study medicine?

When I was in fifth grade, there was a time when they invited a man to speak to us at our morning assembly. The man usually talked about career paths. He asked those who wanted to be lawyers or doctors to raise their hands. Like I said, I wanted to be a priest back then, but I just thought what would happen if it didn’t work out?

So I decided to add medicine and surgery. The reason was that I had known a man in our region, his name is Doctor Ugo, he is also a gynecologist and he had a private clinic.

I greatly admired the man. We didn’t usually talk but I saw him and knew what he was doing. I liked it and decided to study medicine, although I thought there was also money in the profession because no one wants to study anything and will not succeed. Later I discovered that there was no money in medicine. I want to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology. My second choice is general surgery

Medicine and dumpster driving are two very different career paths, how did you come to be a dumpster driver?

I studied and combined it with work. At some point I stopped selling the water and joined the boys filling the dumpster with a shovel. I also joined those pulling the sand out of the creek and washing the gravel. Even during school holidays, I went to the construction site to work and even helped my brother and my cousin on the construction sites. During my college years, I wasn’t so strong academically because I didn’t read a lot, which I learned in my senior year.

My classmate then in JSS2 who was my very close friend came first and that motivated me to drop out. After passing the WAEC, I went back to join my older brother at the tipper site, at the time he was driving a tipper for someone. Then I followed him to work and load the dumpster with sand and gravel or debris from a demolished structure. He started teaching me to drive, from there I started driving home after the day’s work, then moved on to drive a loaded dumpster. After about six months, I quit and went back for JAMB and Post UTME courses. I financed myself with the money I earned by working.

I was admitted to UNN to further my education. In the second half of my first year, my mother passed away. So during school vacations or vacations, I went back there and joined my brother to work. However, there was a time when I couldn’t go home permanently because of schoolwork. Then I decided to do online outreach, flyers for the company. If someone calls me to deliver sand or gravel, I will call my brother and we will go together and deliver. From there, I would go back to school.

How well do you think you managed to combine the two without one suffering for the other?

When I started college, my freshman year was in Nsukka, so I had no reason to drive a dump truck. My freshman year was completely off the mark. Then when I crossed I had to mix it all up but not during school. I wasn’t a full time dumpster driver I think that’s the controversy now because most people think a full time dumpster driver can’t do that and keep going to the ‘school. I believe them because I wouldn’t say it’s not possible but it’s hard.

So I’m not a full-time dumpster driver. In second year, what I do is that during the break, I go back to work. I’m my brother at work, that’s what I do. I don’t have a dump truck that I drive on my own, like in accounts to do. For example, during lockdown in 2020, I went to work with my brother the whole way. Even during strikes and Ebola period too.

I noticed that during my clinic which has to do with more hospital assignments, there will be no break. I had to start making flyers online just to create awareness. I sent it to my friends on WhatsApp and Facebook, even though I didn’t have a Twitter account at the time. So I sent it to all my social platforms and my friends who saw it helped me to share it.

Then if someone called me to deliver, I would go with my brother and deliver for that particular contract and return to the hostel the same day. I only go to the site when I have a contract. This is how I combine the two. So my school didn’t suffer from dumpster driving and dumpster driving didn’t suffer for my school.

What do you think has been your biggest challenge so far, both as a medical student and a dumpster driver?

My biggest challenge so far, as a medical student, for me is finance. From my story, that’s part of the reason I’m involved in other stampedes. It’s not just the dumpster that I drive, but I also do other things too.

Not that it’s me paying my tuition, it’s my brother and sister and I really feel for them. It should have been my parents, but now they are the ones taking that position as father and mother. It’s not like they have that money coming out all the time, so I’m trying to help them.

They also see this commitment and it encourages them to support me whenever I say I need the money. Sometimes I feel bad asking for money for needs that aren’t urgent. Finance is therefore a major issue.

Other than that, medical school is tough. Leaving for assignment and transportation every day is not easy. The workload for reading is large and the time interval for reading is short. For example, you are expected to read Pharmacology and Pathology in one year and pass comfortably. Two courses that some people take years to specialize in.

Were there any instances where you were embarrassed to be a dump truck driver?

As a driver and dumpster driver, I have never been ashamed or embarrassed. The thing is, the work is tough. Sometimes you take off your shirt, steer the dumpster and even stop some cars on the road.

I started so early, so I adapted to that and was very proud of it. I was a clinical student when we went into lockdown in 2020, but I also returned to work. Load the dumpster, drive, steer, drive and have never been ashamed or afraid to meet my classmate or lecturer

SPOTLIGHT: Meet Benjamin, the medical student who drives a dumpster as a

Do you have any future plans to continue driving tippers or are you looking forward to making it a much bigger business?

I want to turn it into a dump truck business. It’s a bigger undertaking by the grace of God

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

Resident Doctor in O&G (Obstetrician and Gynecologist) in Nigeria. Or in the UK or the US if I have enough money to write the medical.

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