My niece, Sandile Mahlangu, had his first solo flight on Tuesday 15 September 2020. I cannot hide that I am a proud aunt. When he was doing grade 8, he told me that he wanted to be a pilot. I did not think much of his statement. However, I gave him the book that I have co-written with Llewellyn Hartnick entitled “Defence Technology Made Easy”. It is a book written to help especially African children to understand the world of Defence and realise the plethora of careers that are available within the Defence space.
He was very determined and he exposed himself to every literature that said something about being a pilot. When at the airport, he would engage pilots he saw even if he did not know them. I shared his aspiration with Masie Ngema, a lady pilot who trained with the South African Air Force (SAAF). She informed me about a Young Falcon Camp organised by the SAAF in partnership with Denel meant to expose children from disadvantaged communities who do Mathematics and Science to the world of aviation. They expose them to being a pilot, an air traffic controller/navigator and engineer. This camp ran for two weeks and it proved to be what he needed to solidify his determination to be a pilot.
He went with his dad’s friend to Sun City in a helicopter. He spent a day at the OR Tambo Control Tower. He attended the Africa Aerospace and Defence Exhibition 2016 and 2018. This exhibition has a Youth Development Programme which he attended. He wrote his matric in 2019 but failed Mathematics and Physics. Alas, what a disappointment. The encouragement from his mother and myself gave him hope. The mother went to talk to the aviation school where he applied and told them the bad news. They assessed him and said that he is good enough to be a pilot. They will help him do his matric online. He started with the aviation school in January 2020.
His mother, my sister, was his biggest support. She was always concerned about his school work. She got him extra classes for Maths and Science. She got concerned when he looked like he was slacking and not studying as hard as he should. I got a call from the mother telling me that Umalusi has sent a matric certificate for Sandile Mahlangu. We could not believe that. Authentic matric certificate signed by the CEO of Umalusi with all the subjects he has passed! So, he has been working on improving his Mathematics because he reckons that is all he needs to improve his matric certificate.
As I write, I am a bit emotional. He has completed his first solo flight. So many of our children are short-changed by a combination of our educational system and parents who don’t move mountains for find out about how education works. Many of our African parents move their children towards university only for them to swell the