Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

Ethiopia: Four More Driving Exam Hours to Accommodate 29,000

Vehicles are to be deployed from driving centres to train student drivers and reduce the practical testing backlog.

Vehicles are to be deployed from driving centres to train student drivers and reduce the practical testing backlog.

As the backlog of students waiting to take their driving exams at Kaliti Drivers' and Mechanics' Training Institute hits 29,000, the Institute introduces four more hours for exams, on weekdays, starting Monday January 14, 2013.

The Institute is also reassigning students seeking advanced permits to attend their practical training lessons on the six kilometre traffic road from Legetafo to Meri CMC, as early as this week.

The reassignment is expected to make more room for exams at the Institute, where both practical training and exams have been required to take place since 2010.

The requirement was part of several reform measures that the government has been trying to implement since 2008. Other measures included the requirement for students to attend at least 15 days of theory courses and complete 30 hours of practical training prior to sitting their exams. In addition, the exams must be administered using CCTV cameras.

This was a departure from the days before the reform, when theory courses only took a week and practical lessons were given on traffic roads. Glitches in the new system appeared a little while later, through frequent camera breakdowns and a buildup in the backlog of applicants.

This grew overtime, until it started taking as long as six months to a year to acquire a permit, according to a previous student, who requested to remain anonymous.

"This is after you pay at least 3,600 Br for the new training system," the student lamented.

Repeated complaints, from both teachers and students at the Institute, recently drove officials from the Addis Abeba City Transport Bureau (AACTB) and the Federal Transport Authority (FTA) to form a committee to discuss potential solutions. Another committee was also formed to study the problems and propose additional solutions.

This committee's findings showed that the backlog was due to the limited capacity at the Institute and the failure of schools to provide quality training. Their study suggested the addition of extra working hours, and for some practical lessons to resume on selected traffic roads.

The proposed solutions, however, were based on old data that put the figure of the backlog at 18,000-20,000 students. This persuaded the main committee to initiate another survey on the current status of the backlog.

In December, all driving schools were asked to submit the number of students that had finished their course and were thus awaiting examination. The new study revealed a much higher number.

Out of the 29,000 students awaiting examination, 18,064 are repeat exam takers; 10,115 have failed the practical test and 15,594 have failed the theory test, at least once.

Once the current data was collected, the AACTB and the FTA called a meeting with Addis Abeba City Drivers Training Centre Association to make the decision about the extra working hours and to provide lessons outside of the Institute. The extra hours will bring up the testing capacity from 150 to 250 cars a day.

"They have informed us that eventually they will increase it to 300," Tesfaye Negussie, general manager of the Drivers Training Centres Association told Fortune.

Driving Centres were tasked, at the meeting, with deciding which of their automobiles and students will be transferred outside of the institute to train on the Meri CMC - Legetafo road.

A school can only take in 10 students at a time, for a single vehicle, and only two can take their exams using that same vehicle on a weekly basis.

There are currently 370 authorised vehicles belonging to the different training schools. Out of these, 109 are vehicles used for teaching those who want to acquire advanced drivers' licences (grade 3-5), whilst the rest are for grade two learners.

It is out of these 109 vehicles that some will be deployed on the Legetafo-Meri CMC road this week.

"Students that train outside [the Institute grounds] may lose the advantage of practicing on the obstacle course and exam route inside Kaliti," Tesfaye explained to Fortune. "So what schools will do is alternate students on the traffic road so that when examination time nears, they can train at the Institute."

The AACTB and FTA, for their part, plan to do another survey of the backlog, by calling students who are waiting to take their exams to register in their district transport bureaus. This is to crosscheck the current figure, since schools submitted lists of students from as early as 2008, and some of the students may not be available or eligible to take the test anymore, according to Teblets Asgedom, deputy bureau head at AACTB.

"We are still verifying the number," she said. "The Bureau will take more measures to correct the situation once we do so."

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