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OP-ED: Process to acquire driver’s license is discriminatory

OP-ED: Process to acquire driver's license is discriminatory

A large section of the population is being discriminated against by the State through a process that is managed by the Guyana Police Force, which does not cater for all the citizens of this country.

The people who cannot read and write are being left out in the cold whenever they seek to apply themselves to a process that if successful, would guarantee them a driver’s licence. That process is the theoretical aspect of the Learner/Driver examination.

In its current state, the existing laws do not cater for those who are academically challenged.

What currently obtains is if one needs to obtain a driver’s licence, he/she needs to purchase a package which includes a number of booklets to be studied, those booklets carry symbols of universal road signs, along with lengthy paragraphs of text which need to be studied in preparation for the theoretical examinations.

The process further mandates that the candidate presents him/herself for four periods of classroom sessions with police traffic officers, who will go through the packages with them in preparation for the examination. After that process is complete, there is an examination.

Supervision and marking of the papers are done in conjunction with representatives of the Cops and Faith Network. The aforementioned posture was arrived at by the force some three years ago, after it was discovered that the entire learner/driver examination process was corrupt, and persons who did not sit the examination were recorded as having done so…and passed.

Anyone who is academically inclined is most likely to pass the theoretical leg of the examination, but those challenged academically will in most instances fail. Sadly, once you fail the theoretical aspect of the process you are not allowed to move onto the practical so the level of your competencies in driving is never known or seen by the supervising ranks and individuals.

It is therefore recommended that a system be put in place to cater for those who are less academically inclined to be issued with driver’s licences once they show competencies in other areas. In many cases, driving is actually the SKILL of those persons who are not academically inclined, and is also the skill which they use to seek employment.

While the process of acquiring the licences discriminates against these academically challenged persons in a direct manner, it also indirectly discriminates against them when they are unable to secure employment with a skill (driving) that they have, but which cannot be recognised, because the system from the outside puts them at a disadvantage.

The process affects persons across religion, race, political affiliation and gender. It therefore means that a review of the entire process of the learner/driver examination should be tackled by a multi-faceted approach so that all can benefit.

There is obviously the downside of allowing persons who cannot read and write to be driving on the roadways, but the question remains, how do we fix the system to cater for them and address their shortcoming since some of them may only be able to cater for their families by operating a vehicle. This is another reason the process should be looked at from all angles.

A review of the process, to make it inclusive, will see a steep fall in corruption in the Guyana Police Force that is associated with purchasing driver’s licences or paying for pass papers. Once persons are aware that they can be issued a driver’s licence through a process that is recognised, they will be less persuaded to pay monies to corrupt police officers to facilitate the production of driver’s licences to them.