WINDHOEK - Twenty-one-year-old Riundja Kaumbi is a student pilot at the Wonderboom National Airport at Eagle Air in Pretoria, South Africa, in pursuit of her first Private Pilot Licence (PPL), before moving on to a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL).
She describes herself as an outspoken person yet really shy. “I’m genuine and highly value deep friendships and family bonds,” says Kaumbi adding it takes passion, drive, lot of patience and discipline to be a pilot.
“It requires concentration and consistency from you. Because aviation is a broad industry, one should always have an open mind to learning and expanding your intellectual capacity as a pilot,” she says, pointing out that flying is thrilling and empowering, and it is an easy task, especially when one get the hang of it. “I have learned how to fly before I could learn how to drive, and I’m doing just fine,” an excited Kaumbi said.
She is currently in her fourth year.
Kaumbi is however currently out of school for 6-8 months to raise funds to continue with her studies. “My biggest challenge is funding, I got a government loan in my first two years but the funds where nowhere close to helping me finish at least my first licence. Pilot training is one of the most expensive qualifications one can attain with fees of up to +-N$2000 per hour, adding living costs to that brings me to a sum I know my mother and I won’t be able to raise on our own,” Kaumbi explains.
She adds that she always run out of funds right before major test flights and would be circumstantially forced to come back home and raise funds. “This sets me back greatly, especially in my practical training. I’m currently doing a crowd funding campaign and knocking on every door and window untill I accumulate the money I need before I can return to school.
The lack of sufficient funding has delayed the progress of my studies immensely,” she observes.
Even though she is delayed by funds, she is currently on a Private License course and about to start with navigation training, flying from one airport to another using a map upon her return to school. “I’m very excited to resume training after seven months of not being active.”
Kaumbi’s defining moment thus far is when she was sent to fly all by herself and land a plane (Cessna172). “In flight school we call this exercise going solo. I was so excited yet scared. When I had full and total control of the aircraft and realised I had the power to steer it left to right, up and down, I was in tears. The feeling of liberty and confidence was overwhelming. I realised in that moment that with God I could accomplish anything no matter how hard it may appear,” says Kaumbi excitedly.
Born in Windhoek, her mother’s only child, many of her childhood memories took place in Omaruru where she attended her kindergarten while living with her late grandmother, who was a single lady. “Even with the absence of a male figure in my life, my grandmother and mother, my mom being a single parent herself, have taught me hard and proper work, strength and determination.”
“My mother doesn’t own a house so for all my life we have been house hopping, flat searching and moving to and from numerous houses trying to find a home with exorbitant housing prices slapping us in our faces. This was and still is very stressful, especially when I was growing up because, I never had the luxury of knowing what being in my own room felt like,” says Kaumbi.
She adds that she would always wonder about what the other side of her family would be like if she had grown up having a close relationship with her father. “I have never met my father until I was 18 years. All the years before that were ones of battling with myself and my place in society. I often felt rejected and always had ‘why me’ questions and ‘had it been different’ statements. I overcame most of my personal battles through constant prayers and I realised that having quiet time with myself in a safe place to cry out my emotions blew off a lot of frustration and resentment,” she says.
Kaumbi believes the challenges she has gone through were all part of a bigger picture, a grand purpose. Had she not gone through and overcome them, she would still be dealing with low self-esteem, self-doubt, not expressing herself. “These are all character flaws that can truly cripple ones aviation career.”
Kaumbi encourages fellow youth to step out of any victim mindset holding them back from reaching their true potential. “Let us step out of our comfort zones and be at the frontline of our nation. If you have the slightest opportunity at a chance in education, be it vocational or academic, and you know it’s your passion, go for it and don’t let your circumstances dictate your current status. To those who pray, do it without ceasing.”