31 January 2012

Namibia: New Natis Procedure Irks Learners' Licence Hopefuls

Windhoek — The public has criticised the long-awaited written learners' licence testing procedure, saying the system is chaotic and is not working.

On December 5, 2011, the Roads Authority launched a written learners' licence test in Windhoek hoping it would reduce the high failure rate and eliminate allegations of corruption in oral tests.

At the time, Erkki Nghimtina, the Minister of Works and Transport was optimistic that the written test would significantly reduce the high demand for learners' licences, as tests would be conducted in big groups per session with approximately three to four sessions per day.

Barely a month passed, the written system has irked people wishing to book for the tests.

To add insult to injury, the written tests are only implemented in Windhoek, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.

Since the system is conducted in a multiple choice format, thousands of people from nearby towns and far beyond have now flocked to Windhoek for bookings, forcing them to over night at the National Traffic Information System (NaTIS).

For years, this testing procedure was conducted only orally.

"Due to the system that is not implemented countrywide, people are flocking here. It is crazy. It is terrible. We are trying to defuse the situation but it seems it is not working. People come from neighbouring towns and even Oshakati," complained a NaTIS official who refused to be named.

Long queues could be seen from the main road to the NaTIS doors, with many holding umbrellas to shield from the scorching sun and unpredictable rains.

Many people who are fed up with the long queues are calling for more testing centres around Windhoek or the rolling out of the written system to other towns.

"Look at Ramatex, it's a white elephant. Why can't you set up a centre? We just don't have the capa­city. The only solution is to give people options. We can't cope because people don't have choices. We failed to implement," charged another NaTIS official.

Sometimes officials are forced to work on Saturdays to contain the large number of people.

NaTIS officials blamed some of the mess on applicants themselves, saying they come unprepared to the centre hence they end up failing and have to re-book.

"Most of these applicants come here without having mastered the book and they fail. If they came prepared, then they would not re-book. They treat the book as if it's a "hit the jackpot". They don't meet us half way," fumed a NaTIS official.

An upset University of Namibia (Unam) 2nd year student said it is her fourth time to go for bookings with no luck.

"This is my fourth time here. This time I came at 03h00. I slept here and I never ate anything. The past weeks I used to found a notice that they are fully booked.

They say the centre does not have enough markers for the tests and that we must come back next time. How can they not have enough markers when they see thousands of us?" Hazel Moyo asked.

Moyo, like many irked people, suggested that more centres offering written tests be rolled out countrywide.

Kandjengo Ndiili, who travelled from the north, said she too overnighted there since 03h00.

"When I came here it was already full to capacity. The queue was at the road. It was even raining and there was nothing we could do," she charged.

Some suggest that security guards give the first comers numbers so there would be no pushing and cheating in the queues.

In an attempt to contain the situation, NaTIS has increased the intake from 38 to 42 per day with three sessions as of today.

However, statistics have shown that more people pass written compared to oral testing, where one would find three people passing out of 50 on average.

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