AFTER years of idling along trying to find a marketing job, a 26-year-old Sunshine Coast man is revved up to realise his dreams thanks to the opening of a free driver’s licence training centre in Port Alfred yesterday.
Thembelani Gwebani – who has a college marketing diploma – said he had spent years applying for jobs countrywide but remained unemployed because he did not have a driver’s licence.
“I think I only need one month of training and then I will have my licence,” he said.
Sitting behind the wheel of a R100000 driving simulator, Gwebani said although he was scared of turning the key and driving the computer car on a TV screen road he was excited he would soon have a licence.
The free driving school is a collaboration between Stenden South Africa – an international hospitality university with campuses in Port Alfred, Holland, Indonesia, Thailand and Qatar – the Coega Development Corporation (CDC) and Ndlambe Municipality.
Although the newly-opened Dr Isaac Mabindisa Youth Empowerment Centre already boasts four brand new simulators, CDC driver training manager Alf Settle yesterday promised Nemato township residents at the official opening he would deliver another one next week.
He said the CDC had opened 14 driver simulator centres across the Eastern Cape since 2012 and more than 750 people had received free licences.
The CDC driver training programme is offered at Walter Sisulu University, FET colleges such as Ikhala in Queenstown, Buffalo City in East London and Ingwe College (with campuses in Mount Frere, Lusikisiki, Bizana, Maluti and Mount Fletcher) and the University of Fort Hare.
Part of the CDC’s social development programme, the simulators are said to be 70% cheaper for driver training than proper driving schools.
Settle played down fears the simulators were more of a TV game than the real deal, saying pilots around the world were also trained on similar machines.
Drivers wear headphones, turn a key, put the “car” in first gear and take to the roads in all weather conditions – getting told about their faults along the way, including when to change gears, road speeds and the consequences of having a fender bender.
Named after well-known Port Alfred academic Dr Isaac Mabindisa, who died last year, the simulators are aimed at empowering poor, unemployed school leavers aged between 18 and 35 as well as apartheid-era war veterans and domestic workers.
After decades in exile, Mabindisa returned home and played a key role in setting up Stenden South Africa in Port Alfred.
Stenden South Africa general manager Dr Wouter Hensens said the driver simulation programme formed part of a larger community empowerment initiative they had set up in towns across Ndlambe.
He said having no driver’s licence was “a core barrier” for unemployed people looking for jobs.
He predicted the centre would run 24 hours a day – using trainers employed by the university – and it would result in a dramatic increase in people doing driver’s licence tests. — email@example.com