Forest Hill Residence: Driving student success

04 August 2022 | Story Nicole Forrest. Photo Getty Images. Read time 7 min.
UCT’s Forest Hill Residence has launched the innovative “You Have the Drive” programme to help students acquire their driver’s licences.
UCT’s Forest Hill Residence has launched the innovative “You Have the Drive” programme to help students acquire their driver’s licences.
 

“You Have the Drive” is an innovative programme that has been launched by the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Forest Hill Residence in a bid to help students acquire their driver’s licences by mitigating the costs and difficulties associated with navigating the licence application system.

The programme, which was instituted in 2021, is the brainchild of former Forest Hill Residence Development Committee sub-wardens Mihle Mleni and Ntsieni Mbedzi. In collaboration with Masindi Driving School – which is also run by former “Hillers” – the residence offers final-year students the opportunity to become licensed drivers.

Students who are in good academic standing and have served the house can apply to the Development Committee at Forest Hill to obtain funding for driving lessons as well as the fees associated with taking both the learner’s and driver’s licence tests.

The road to success

The initiative aims to help students with little to no driving experience to acquire both their learner’s and driver’s licences over a period of three months.

“You Have the Drive” seeks to offer skills development from grassroot level. Students who have zero driving experience are given the opportunity to obtain both their learner’s and driver’s licence within the 12-week duration of the programme,” explained Amanda Mathe, a sub-warden who serves on the Forest Hill Residence Development Committee.

The programme gives students access to driving lessons, assistance with booking the various appointments, as well as access to a car in which to take their test. What’s more, the course focuses on making the process fun to reduce trepidation around the driving test, and to improve outcomes.

 

“The programme offers a well-rounded package whereby students are offered lessons that would render them successful for both the learners and drivers licence test.”

“We aim to make the process of obtaining a driver’s licence as easy as possible because we understand that this is quite a daunting task for many,” said Mathe.

Andile Mhlongo, another Forest Hill sub-warden, added: “The programme offers a well-rounded package whereby students are offered lessons that would render them successful for both the learner’s and driver’s licence test.

“Students are offered assistance in booking their test appointments and are given hire of the car on the day of the test. Daily transportation to and from the practising grounds is provided, and Masindi Driving School [has] offered to organise team-building exercises aimed at reducing anxiety levels amongst the students and making the learning process enjoyable.”

These efforts have not gone to waste, as the students who take part in the programme point out. “My experience so far in the driver’s licence programme has been quite enjoyable. The overall level of organisation and engagement is good, and one does feel comfortable working and training with the instructors,” noted engineering student Phemelo Maile.

Part of this success can be attributed to the residence’s inclusion of a UCT alumni-run driving school. “The added advantage to this programme is that the majority of the instructors are UCT’s very own alumni; thus, they have created a carefully structured programme that mitigates any hindrances to the academic activities of our students,” said Mhlongo.

“We have partnered with a team of instructors who are a young and dynamic group of individuals [who] have recently joined the working world, as they have a better understanding of the complexities that students face in this transition phase.”

Breaking down barriers

As the programme focuses on providing students who may otherwise not have had the opportunity to obtain their licences, a key focus is students for whom affordability is an issue.

“We mainly target students that are financially vulnerable, namely students that are funded by NSFAS (the National Student Financial Aid Scheme), who are potential qualifiers that seek to join the workforce in the following year,” explained Mathe.

“We understand that, under normal circumstances, these students would have not been able to afford the costs pertaining to acquiring a driver’s licence and thus we endeavour to mitigate that as much as possible.”

However, financial need is not the only consideration. Mathe said that the residence also looks at “other metrics … such as academic performance as well as student involvement within the residence system and UCT at large”.

 

“The opportunity to get a learner’s licence and a driver’s licence is invaluable because they make a material difference in the employability of the students who get them.”

The reciprocal action that is built into the programme’s design serves to build a sense of community among residence leadership and students while also providing necessary practical skills.

“One can really say that this was started by students for students as a means to better equip [them] with the necessary tools to navigate present and future challenges. The opportunity to get a learner’s licence and a driver’s licence is invaluable because they make a material difference in the employability of the students who get them,” said Mhlongo.

This sentiment is echoed by the students who take part in the programme. “I do believe that having a driver’s licence after one has graduated is essential, as most job opportunities do list it as a skill required in their vacant positions,” noted Maile.

“Having a driver’s licence before graduating does reduce one more barrier to employment I am likely to face when leaving university. Furthermore, it will allow me to be more independent and not rely on others, which does improve my confidence when going into the world of work.”

An institution-wide opportunity

Following the success of this initial programme, the Forest Hill Residence leadership hopes to drive its adoption throughout all UCT residences. “We envision a future where this wonderful programme is offered by every residence [at] UCT,” said Mathe.

Currently, Forest Hill’s Development Committee uses the portion of its annual portfolio budget dedicated to the holistic development of its students to fund the “You Have the Drive” initiative. However, plans are in the works to mobilise more funding to expand the programme.

“We are currently seeking external funding and sponsorship to help service a greater number of students. Many students have expressed great interest in the programme, but due to limited funds we could only cover 20 students,” Mathe noted.

“The team is inviting all local businesses and corporations to come on board and assist us in changing the lives of many students for the better.”


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