Sunday 26 April 2015

What drove man to make 80 attempts to qualify as cabby

61-year-old's grit inspires 3 readers, who offer to pay his taxi deposit
By Olivia Ho, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2015

NEWLY qualified cabby Shi Zhaolin has revealed to The Straits Times why he was so determined to land the job - after 79 failed attempts to pass the tests.

The 61-year-old, who made headlines this week after finally qualifying for his vocational licence on his 80th try, was desperate to escape a succession of odd jobs and wanted to be able to support his family.

Three Straits Times readers have since stepped forward to offer to pay the cab deposit for the married father of two, after reading his inspiring story.

Obtaining the licence will give Mr Shi a chance to gain financial freedom. Having a vehicle will also be useful when he takes his 101-year-old mother for medical check-ups.

He said in Mandarin: "She cannot walk so we have to take taxis, and the fares come up to $20 to $30 each time.

"I can also take my daughter to the school where she teaches, so she won't have to worry about missing buses and being late."

Mr Shi's 29-year-old daughter has been the family's main breadwinner. His wife stays at home in Bukit Panjang to care for his mother.

After his air-conditioner servicing company shut down two years ago, Mr Shi was unable to find employment because of his age and did odd jobs to get by, such as fixing air-cons and unclogging drains.

He decided to take the tests to become a cabby, but his poor command of English made it hard for him to tell the multiple- choice options apart, even after doing them repeatedly.

"The questions knew me well, but I did not know them at all."

Questions ranged from whether a cabby can legally stop, wait or park on double yellow lines, to the different fines for traffic offences.

Singapore Taxi Academy data shows that eight out of 10 applicants passed at the first attempt over the last two months. Mr Shi took six months and said he spent more than $1,000.

"It has been very hard on my wife who gave me money from her savings to do this," he said. "I didn't want to disappoint my family. I have to work, I cannot keep relying on others. I hope I can inspire others to persevere."

He already seems to have done that.

Corporate trainer Jimmy Pang, 44, was one of the three readers who offered to put down the $1,000 deposit for his cab.

"I totally admire his never- give-up attitude, even at his age," said Mr Pang. "We can all learn from it."

Another, Mr William Goh, 68, empathised with Mr Shi as he had taken three attempts to pass his exams to become a property agent five years ago.

Mr Shi, who hopes to get a Comfort cab, said: "I am grateful that there are good-hearted people out there. But ultimately you must work hard and earn money, not rely on others."

Man passes cabby course after some 80 tries
My Paper, 20 Apr 2015

IF AT first you don't succeed, try, try again. That worked for a 61-year-old man who finally passed the taxi-driver course after some 80 attempts.

Former air-conditioning subcontractor Shi Zhaolin had failed the course 70 times in five months, Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported on April 1. He was so determined to pass and become a cabby that he even took the test for one module more than 30 times last month.

Mr Shi had said that he repeatedly failed the course because of his poor grasp of English and difficulty in understanding the test questions.

After the report on Mr Shi was published in Wanbao and My Paper, many readers were moved by his tenacity. They praised him for not giving up on his dream and spurred him on.

A tutor even offered to give Mr Shi free English tuition classes. The National Trades Union Congress' Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) also sought to help him with career coaching and English classes.

After much hard work, Mr Shi finally passed the course on April 9, Wanbao reported yesterday. He scored 43 out of 50 marks - the passing grade is 40.

Speaking to Wanbao, he said that after the report on him was published, he tried the test again for about 10 more times. However, he was always just three to five points shy of the passing grade.

Fortunately for Mr Shi, a patient tuition teacher was there to help him.

"The teacher was very understanding. He would meet me at Bukit Panjang and spend an hour to help me brush up (my English)," said Mr Shi.

He added that the tutor analysed past questions with him and pointed out keywords, to help the aspiring cabby understand what the questions meant.

Thanking all those who helped him, Mr Shi said he would also be participating in e2i's courses to improve his English skills.

He will still need to wait about three weeks before he can get his taxi licence. In the meantime, Mr Shi is working hard to fix air-conditioners to save up enough for the $1,000 deposit to rent a cab.

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