UK & World News

  • 4 January 2014, 6:18

Township Youths Swap Streets For Powerboats

A group of disadvantaged youths are being taught how to pilot F1 and F2 powerboats in a bid to keep them off the streets and help them develop new skills.

Eighteen-year-old Puleng Direko, who lives in a corrugated iron shack in Parys township in the Free State, looks on course to become the first black woman to power boat.

She is one of about 14 youngsters specially chosen to take part in an F1 Powerboat Racing Development Programme in South Africa's Free State.

Some of them have been doing it for four years now and it has opened up their lives.

Puleng now wants to spread her wings and develop a career with skills which will lift herself and her extended family out of poverty.

She told Sky News: "I really want to work hard at school and get some qualifications. This programme has changed my life and my outlook."

All the youngsters are taken on the programme with the understanding that they have to keep up their school grades and work hard to stay in the programme.

Zola Key, from ZAM Entertainment, is the entrepreneur behind the idea.

She said: "Its not just about piloting powerboats. It's about helping the next generation.

"It may only apply to a small number of children but they develop not just skills, but a life experience and ambition to do better and we hope we are creating the next group of leaders."

Every weekend, the children are picked up from their homes and brought to training. It is a trip which can take a couple of hours.

Many of the children did not even know how to swim and had never been in any kind of boat before.

The programme is funded largely by the Free State Tourism Authority and municipality which has been working hard to attract international attention to its facilities as a host of F1 and F2 powerboat championships.

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