PICS | 'This is the best news ever' Mitchells Plain matriculants driven to success

Matric students at the Gallows Hill Licence testing centre.
Matric students at the Gallows Hill Licence testing centre.
  • Matriculants in Mitchells Plain have been give the opportunity to obtain their learner's licence for free.
  • On Sunday about 50 pupils successfully wrote their learner's licence test at Gallows Hill traffic department in Greenpoint.
  • More than R130 000 has been injected into the learner's licence project.

Matriculants in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, have been given an opportunity to obtain their learner's licences for free in a pilot project  launched at the beginning of the year.

The project, founded by ward councillor Avron Plaatjies and Western Cape Member of the Legislature Ricardo Mackenzie, seeks to steer youth away from a life of crime and make them more employable once they finish school.

On Sunday, about 50 pupils from the Lentegeur High School, wrote and successfully passed their test to obtain their learner's licence at the Gallows Hill traffic department in Green Point.

The learners were given free lessons over the past few months from the Basil van der Merwe driving school in the area.

Mackenzie said it's nearly "... impossible to get a job without a driver's licence", and therefore hatched a plan for funding to proceed with the project.

"I have secured private funding from the Wheatfield Estate Foundation Trust for about 100 matric learners to complete their learner's and ultimately driver's licences. The learners received free lessons after school every day and were well prepared before their test this past weekend," said Mackenzie.

More than R130 000 has been injected into the project.

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"The aim of this project is to give these learners permanent 'employability' once they have their licences. Learners will therefore not only complete their matric this year but will also leave school with a skill for life," he said.

Speaking to News24 immediately after collecting their successful learner's test result, several students said they couldn't be prouder.

'Lekker moment'

Nathaniel Petersen, 17, said his parents have been teaching him how to drive for some time, and when the opportunity came for him to get his learner's, he jumped at the opportunity.

"Not only am I proud of myself but this was definitely a nice Mother's Day gift to my mother. I never called her to tell her that I passed, I wanted to make her nervous first, but when I got home to show her the paper, we all screamed and smiled. It was a lekker moment," he added.  

An excited Petersen said that his dream was to join the police and plans to work very hard to be successful in now trying to obtain his driver's licence.

Students arriving at the Gallows Hill driving testing centre for their learner's licence test.

Natheerah Davids, 17, said the opportunity is a, "... major advancement to our future. 

"This is a major achievement for me. I'd like to become a doctor one day and I can already see from just looking around me that doctors work crazy shifts and sometimes till early in the morning. So, getting my licence is a definite must for me and my career choice," said Davids.

She added that opportunities like these make the youth more grateful and determined to succeed.

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"If you look at the youth on the Cape Flats, not many opportunities are given to us because of the stigma surrounding the areas. But when we are afforded such great opportunities to better our life choices, it makes one want to get up and work because there's someone out there that sees your potential," Davids added.

The students waiting to go write their learner's license test.

Kaylin Petersen said even though she was "very nervous" about writing her test, she was over the moon that she passed.

Petersen added:

This is the best news ever. To be able to drive is a skill in itself and something we all should be doing to better our independence. I want to be an inspiration to those students in my road who sit on corners, and I want them to see that if I can do something with the opportunities given to me then so can they.

Mackenzie said there is another group of pupils from Oval High North who are set to write their learner's at the Fish Hoek traffic department on Saturday.

"This was our first successful group, and I am extremely proud of the efforts they made to be successful. Given the fact that many learners come from gang neighbourhoods and this project represents an invaluable opportunity for many to expand their horizons,” he added.

Students arriving at the Gallows Hill driving testing centre for their learner's test.

Ward councillor Avron Plaatjies said he was proud of them. 

"Many of them had massive smiles on their faces as they collected their papers. I think for many of them this is a clear indication that they can do anything they put their minds to. A lot of the kids are looking forward to now finally getting behind the wheel to learn to drive," said Plaatjies.

Meanwhile, the driving school instructor said he was very happy to be a part of the project as he knows how difficult life can get without a driver's licence.

"It was a great honour for me to teach the kids, as well as take them to make their appointments, and get their photos taken. When I suggested this initiative to Mackenzie some time ago, it was because I could see that the youth needed to do something with their lives to make them more employable when they leave school shortly," said Van der Merwe.

Students who passed their learner's licence test.

He recalls when he left school in the 90s, he immediately got a job so he could get his driving licence.

"When I got the licence, I started to get more jobs. With the unemployment rate looking like it is now, these kids need to grab every opportunity to make their lives successful and getting that driver's [licence] is a major stepping stone," he added.

Van der Merwe said they are currently looking for sponsors for driving licences for the teens.

"Driving school is not cheap. Any many people don't get their licences because of how expensive driving school is, so if we want to see the youth excel in their life choices then we urge companies and residents to assist where possible to help the kids," said Van der Merwe.   

The pilot project, which will hopefully be extended to other high schools within the area, and after successful completion of the learner's licence programme, Mackenzie said he would then source more funding for learners.

"Going forward, to be able to source more funding for such initiatives will ultimately depend on the successes of the learners in obtaining their learner's [licences]. Once the number is there regarding successful completion, only then am I able to try and get more funding for the project," Mackenzie added.

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