Girls Fly aviation programme opens up multiple paths for qualified young drone pilot

Alumnus of the UNICEF-supported Girls Fly Programme Africa, explains how the programme gave her the skills and knowledge in aviation.

Thembisile Mabele
Thembisile Mabele
17 June 2022

Allow for many paths to your goal. Do not fixate on one path, because then you are likely to give up when that path is blocked.

Po Bronson

My name is Thembisile Mabele, I was born in Newcastle and grew up in Durban. I am a qualified commercial Drone Pilot, Drones Maintenance technician with Beyond Visual line of sight (BVLOS) rating. I am currently working as a drone pilot in a security and surveillance company and recently got accepted for a BCom in Entrepreneurship degree. I have been passionate about the aviation industry and it was when I was first year at university studying Laser Physics that I realised that I needed to pursue my passion. I then enrolled for a Private Pilot License (PPL) and began researching about funding opportunities that I can across  Girls fly Programme in Africa (GFPA) and their skills development programme. I applied for the programme and was selected.

Thembisile Mabele
Drone technology programme graduation.

Growing up I was led to believe that to be successful our careers should follow a logical and predictable path. Our well-meaning community of parents and teachers strongly encouraged us to pick a lane, work hard and advance in that lane. I have always liked the idea of ​​multiple paths, but I've always been afraid that people would question my true passion. When I joined the Girls Fly Programme Africa (GFPA) drone technology skills development program in partnership with UNICEF South Africa, last year, they made me realize that it was okay for me to have multiple paths. And that is what I needed to hear at that point to get me moving.

Thembisile Mabele
Working as a drone pilot for a security company.

The first week of the programme which encompassed personal development workshop was a rejuvenating experience for me. During that first week we were also introduced to the application of Drone technology and 3D modelling. I went on to obtain a BVLOS rating through the GFPA/UNICEF programme. I went on to volunteer for their aviation and space camp, not only to pay it forward, but to also inspire them with my story with being okay to take multiple-path towards your passion. Today I am Drone Pilot, competent in 3D modelling and Robotics. I am where I am today because of the GFPA sisterhood “Women celebrate women". And I want to say to the youth:

  1. It is okay to follow a non-linear path. That is when you discover possibilities and careers that you never knew existed. I can fly drones, fix drones, and am competent in robotics and 3D which are the skills needed today and tomorrow.
  2. There are many benefits of volunteering. That is how you can build networks and who knows, you can also meet your prospective employer.
  3. Be open to learning and change. You might have been set on path, and how you want to follow your path. Be open to deviate and explore.
Thembisile Mabele
Volunteering at the Girls fly Programme in Africa space camp.

I got to realize that I can be anything I want without being apologetic about it. The sisterhood inspired me to not live in fear of what others had to say. I was motivated to be myself and grow as individual from that week. I have since been challenging myself to overcome my fears through the daily utterance of my old favorite quote by Jack Canfield: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear”.

About the Girls Fly Programme in Africa

The Girls Fly Programme in Africa (GFPA) is an information and educational Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) programme for primary, high school and post-school girl learners with a focus on aviation and space.