Rural women to take to the skies to fight crime
Nine young South African women – most of whom have never stepped into an aircraft – nor been behind the steering wheel of a car – are about to take to the skies in an ambitious programme to become crime-fighting commercial pilots.
“It’s a dream come true, ” said Phamela Baloyi from Giyani near Tzaneen in Limpopo. Phalema is one of the young ladies to have been selected in the South African Police Services (SAPS) initiative funded by the Transport Education Training Authority (TETA).
“I have always dreamed of being a pilot so when this opportunity came, I took it with both hands. I also love engineering, so one day I hope to qualify as a pilot and an aviation engineer.
“I am privileged and blessed to have been given this opportunity.”
The recruits are being trained at the Kishugu Aviation Training Organisation (ATO) based in Mbombela (formerly Nelspruit), Mpumalanga. The R5.8m government TETA funded programme will give them the opportunity to qualify as light aircraft, fixed wing commercial pilots in 18 months.
The trainees – all between 18 and 25 years old with an above average pass in maths and science – were selected after an arduous two-year process that resulted in more than 2,500 applications from all over South Africa being received by SAPS.
Kishugu is globally acknowledged for its Integrated Fire Management Services (IFMS) and as implementing agent of the phenomenally successful South African Governments’ Working on Fire Programme (WoF). Their pilots have been hailed as “Heroes of the skies” for their exceptional fixed-wing and helicopter wildfire fighting skills.
According to SAPS Section Commander (Skills Development) Col Fred Blaauw, the trainee pilot programme is aimed at skills development and at creating job opportunities for South Africa’s youth.
“Once they qualify, these young ladies will take to the air as SAPS members in crime prevention and crime fighting activities,” he said.
“The Kishugu ATO was awarded the contract – after a very tough tender process. We believe that they have the right mix of skills, experience and attitude to assist us to achieve our goal and help the trainees to succeed in gaining their license to fly.”
More than 5,000 firefighters – drawn from the ranks of South Africa’s previously unskilled and unemployed youth – have been trained by Kishugu through the WoF programme. Many have earned well-paid jobs in the private sector thanks to their Kishugu training.
Two former WoF firefighters, Siyabonga Varasha and Themba Maebela are expected to graduate from Kishugu ATO as fixed wing light aircraft pilots by the end of March this year.
“All nine SAPS applicants have the critical ingredient that is required to make them excellent pilots”, said Carel van der Merwe, Head of the Kishugu Aviation Training Organisation. “There is a dream to be fulfilled and a passion to succeed. The rest will be the result of hard work, focus, dedication and training.”
According to Van der Merwe, some of the trainees have never been behind the steering wheel of a car. “The first thing is to get them to drive a car, to learn not to be frightened by the array of instruments on the dashboard – then we take it from there”.
“Our philosophy in business is driven by our slogan “for the greater good” and we are privileged to be able to offer this level of training to the SAPS and contribute to skills upliftment in our country”, said Kishugu Director, Trevor Abrahams.
“It’s great to have the opportunity to have such a positive impact on people’s lives – especially those who do not, in the run of their lives, normally have opportunity in their path.”