Easier ride for Eastern Cape pupils

2015-05-31 15:00
(Pic supplied, Volkswagen)

(Pic supplied, Volkswagen)

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Nkonkobe – Pupils living in the rural Eastern Cape have received bicycles to help them travel to school and back, through an initiative between Volkswagen and its partners Qhubeka, World Vision South Africa and World Vision Switzerland.

It is estimated that of the 17 million children in school in South Africa, 11 million of them walk to school each day. Nearly 500 000 of these learners have to walk for more than an hour, or up to 12km each day, just to get to school.

Volkswagen handed over the 600 bicycles to the learners of 11 rural schools in the Nkonkobe district in Eastern Cape as part of the Bicycle Education Empowerment Programme (BEEP). They also handed out 500 bicycles to nine rural schools in Umzimkhulu, KwaZulu-Natal in April.

BEEP was started in 2009 in Zambia by World Bicycle Relief. They found bicycles as a safe, reliable and affordable mode of transportation for the learners. The initiative was introduced to South Africa in 2013 by Qhubeka in partnership with World Vision South Africa, and has seen 8 100 bicycles already distributed across five provinces.

Each benefiting learner receives a bicycle with a helmet, spanner, combination lock and pump. The learner and parents or guardian are required to sign a contract which stipulates the terms and conditions of using the bicycle. A Bicycle Supervisory Committee is also setup at each recipient school and represented by teachers, SGB (student governing body) members and parents. The Bicycle Supervisory Committee’s role is to not only select beneficiaries but also enforce the two-year service-to-own contract which governs the use of the bicycle.

The bicycle becomes the personal property of the learner after the two years.

“Education is one of our key pillars in our quest to be a company with meaning and impact under the banner of Volkswagen for Good,” said Thomas Schaefer, Managing Director: Volkswagen Group South Africa.

Schaefer said through the partnership with Qhubeka and World Vision South Africa Volkswagen sought to make a small difference but with big impact on the lives of learners living in rural communities.

“We are very hopeful that these bicycles will change the learners’ approach to their schooling and encourage them to work harder to be the best that they want to be,” he said.

Executive Director of Qhubeka, Sarah Phaweni, said distance no longer needed to be a barrier to education for 1 100 school children in Nkonkobe and Umzimkhulu. 

“With BEEP we can make an immediate difference to school attendance as well as improve children’s wellbeing with reliable and affordable transportation,” she said.

The cost of one bicycle is R2 320, and cost covers amongst other things component manufacturing, delivery, helmet, training of the field mechanic as well as ADP’s monitoring and evaluation programme. 

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