Many students living in poverty realize that education is important. Some living in the remote communities of Zimbabwe are even willing to walk several dangerous miles to get to school. These young students often face a difficult choice: leave home before dawn and risk being assaulted on the way to school or live in poor conditions and be closer to school. To improve education in Zimbabwe, the World Bicycle Relief has started distributing bikes to young students to help them reach school safely.
Transportation can be a huge issue that keeps children out of school or puts them at risk in transit. Girls are often the victims of sexual assault; on the way to school they run the risk of falling victim to sexual abuse and prostitution.
Getting to school by bicycle can help alleviate this danger, as a girl named Blessing states that her 7-mile walk becomes a bike ride of under an hour. Similarly, a girl named Ethel has said that her bicycle saved her enough time to keep up with her studies. With this new mode of transportation, she can even give rides to other students. In contrast, girls who cannot bike to school are forced to spend many nights in dangerous areas in order to get to school on time.
The World Bicycle Relief’s model of the organization is simple: bicycles are used as a method of empowerment. Moreover, the organization’s education efforts have not only been set up in Zimbabwe, but also in Zambia and in South Africa. At present, the World Bicycle Relief has distributed over 24,212 bikes. Students selected by their schools receive safety training and a bicycle. In exchange, young students sign a contract agreeing to attend school regularly.
The World Bicycle Relief also distributes bikes to entrepreneurs, healthcare providers, field mechanics and even ‘tree-preneurs’ (students who plant and nurture 150 saplings in exchange for a bike). Bicycles can therefore help the whole communities in ways beyond education in Zimbabwe, as they make it easier to get to necessary hospital services or to run other critical errands. Field mechanics are trained and given the tools to start their own bicycle businesses in order to multiply this effort.
The World Bicycle Relief has been providing transportation to many people throughout southern Africa. Their efforts to improve education in Zimbabwe as well as other countries are empowering children to take control of their education. By reducing the commute time and the risk involved in getting to school, the overall quality of life of youth living in remote regions improves.
– Jeanette I. Burke