Excited learner driver Sanjith with trainer Nikki, (left) outside BSL Broadmeadows.
What could be a finer back-to-school achievement than obtaining your VicRoads learner permit? And that’s just what students Angelina, Fabiana, Mryan, Neven, Silfya, Bailey, Damien and Sanjith did to round out their 2023 summer holiday.
The Changing Gears program traditionally spends the fourth day attending a group booking at the nearest VicRoads site. This is an exciting and bonding experience that has been occurring since 2010. In addition, it introduces young people to a government entity and has resulted in a 93% success rate for participants.
Scheduling and other woes
The three days in the classroom were scheduled for Monday, January 23rd, Tuesday 24th and Wednesday 25th. Thursday was a public holiday which meant a group booking at VicRoads Coolaroo was needed on Friday 27th. However, we were unable to secure one on that day, due to low staff. This compelled the students to complete the test online.
The first day of the program, January 23rd did not start well! BSL Youth Advisors Towheed and Gabrielle had prepared the students as well as they could by providing everyone with a gmail address. However the students had not realised they needed to verify their new email address in order to use it. This resulted in their VicRoads online registration going to unverified email addresses. As the five young women of the group were all Arabic speaking this added another level of complexity to the task!
Youth Adviser Towheed was a huge help, bravely assisting the students with her Arabic which, by her own admission, was not comprehensive. But with her help and trainer Nikki providing everyone with a more simple yahoo email address, everyone managed to register and begin the program.
The difficulty with the online program was that it is only available in English. So as Nikki began to take the students through the first module, Towheed translated. At the end of the day, the group had managed to advance halfway through the first unit of the program “Your driving attitude.” However Towheed was concerned.
“ I will try to get more Arabic speaking translators here tomorrow,” she said, “but it feels really discriminatory that the participants who need it can’t do it in Arabic.”
Trainer Nikki agreed, explaining that the in-person test offered by VicRoads could be done in Arabic. However, the Coolaroo office had been unable to accommodate our booking needs. Hence the group having to do it online.
Making the best of things
“We will make the best of a challenging situation by using translators and translator aps. These are smart kids, I have every confidence in them,” trainer Nikki reassured Towheed.
The second day went far more smoothly with the students all being registered and moving through the units at a good pace. Translator Lina did a wonderful job helping the Arabic speakers. Nikki predicted that the three English speaking boys would likely finish the training and be able to sit the test the next day.
VicRoads education online is NOT the learner permit licencing area!
However, on Wednesday disaster struck! Nikki discovered all the work had been done in the “Education online” section of the VicRoads website and needed to be completed in the “Licenses and learner permits” section. The students had do redo all the work they had completed up to that point! Nikki stayed later to ensure the students were able to catch up. On the positive side, translator Wafa was with the group and an invaluable help.
Sanjith was so dedicated he stayed late and passed the online test that day.
Friday test day
Friday was a hive of activity as everyone hurried to complete the course and sit the test. The group was assisted by three translators; Lina, Sarah and Youth Advisor Mario, who were amazing, helping the students with their last unit and supporting them for the test.
Due to being only fifteen. Neven, registered and finished the course, but will have to do the units online and sit the test when she turns sixteen in March. However, in the words of trainer Nikki, “she is well prepared.”
The group was high fiving and helping to clarify key points for each other as one-by-one they sat the tests. There were a few who did not get it on the first attempt, but by Friday evening everyone had passed.
A final celebration
Those who had completed and passed the test by 1pm on Friday went down to the Broadmeadows VicRoads office and got their permits. This was followed by a celebratory lunch for all the students, Nikki and Youth Advisors Towheed, Gabrielle and Mario.
“This has been a challenging program,” said trainer Nikki to the group, but I am in awe of the dedication everyone has displayed. You can all be proud of yourselves.”
BSL Broadmeadows will also provide free RACV driving lessons for all the participants and access to the L2P program for those who need it. Seven dedicated young people, against all the odds have clicked their way to success and get to start their school year with their learner permits.
Possibilities open up
Driving opens up so many possibilities for disadvantaged young people. Classes are supportive, students and trainers inspire each other, showing the way for young people to overcome their obstacles to driving and experience success.
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Call 1800 766 361 to find out more about Changing Gears.