It is a wonderful warm day in Pretoria and the seats are full with 23 hearing impaired collision repair trainees that have successfully completed two Skills Programmes for the Automotive Body Repair Industry. This is the culmination of seven months Body Repairing Skills for previously disadvantaged deaf learners. Both Dr Frik and Frik junior are justifiably proud of what their 2017 learners have achieved. As the proceedings begin I am struck by the strange silence of it all. The lack of noise is being assisted by all the happy graduates doing sign language at a speed of 10 to the dozen and who are caught up in the excitement of this momentous occasion.
The skills development programme from Dr Frik Botha is not a simple job. It is a vocational drive to uplift a band of humanity the world always seems to disregard as some sort of underling with a poor future on planet earth.
The training centre is fully equipped with good practical equipment and classrooms for theoretical training. Over the years Dr Frik has overcome the many hurdles and reached out to the four corners of South Africa, determined to help any deaf person who wants a better future.
“Currently in the Pretoria area there are six shops who assist in the up-skilling of these hopefuls but we have to ensure that their reading and writing abilities are also kept at higher levels. Invariably their practical skill levels are very high mostly because they all want to take part in a new future in the trade,” said Dr Frik.
They have been greatly assisted by Industry Training and Consulting (ITC) and Merseta with their N2 students enjoying well rounded training in all areas of body shop repair, such as flatting, clamping, dent removal, body filler application and all the areas that a normal general body shop worker would need to be competent in.
It’s a five-day-a-week course run mostly by a deaf mentor and Frik junior. The learners work hard and are amazing people, which makes these graduates highly employable. Almost 10 body shops want them as workers at present – they’re that good. Already 10 of the 23 students that completed the skills programme are gainfully employed in the collision repair trade. Santam have assisted greatly in the success of the programme too
One of the most satisfying achievements for Dr Frik Botha has been the development of a programme for students who are deaf and to watch them become an important part of the workforce, giving them a sense of purpose and dignity. It is that heart, drive and commitment from him and his team that makes this initiative all the more commendable in a nation that tends to trip and fall over many of its on-going problems. So here is positive proof that small miracles happen every day in this land of many contrasts.