How bikes are improving children’s education in South Africa

By Andrew Newmarch, Senior Portfolio Advisor – Southern Africa Team

How long did it take you to get to school when you were a child? In the old days kids usually walked to school, but today, it seems that many students get dropped off by their parents in SUVs. In Malaysia, life has definitely changed. The thought of letting your child walk 4-5 kms to school on their own would be unheard of.

In places like South Africa, this is the only way children can get to school to receive an education. But because of your child sponsorship, World Vision is changing this for thousands of children across the country.

Take this High School in the Giyani project of north-east South Africa for instance.

While in South Africa, I met Alive (yes, his real name!) He and his mates walk about four km’s each way to school every day. Not only is this unsafe, it means that students are spending most of their time travelling when they could be doing their homework or playing with friends. However, for Alive, this is not a long way compared to other students at his school.

“In fact, in South Africa as a whole, 11 million of the 17 million school children walk to school, with 500,000 of them spending more than four hours a day getting to and from school.”

An even bigger picture reveals that South Africa was placed 115th out of 144 countries with regard to children’s access to primary schools. It’s no wonder that only 40% of children who enrol in Grade one achieve a qualification higher than Grade nine.

So what is World Vision doing?

We have partnered with Qhubeka, World Bicycle Relief’s program, to provide bikes to students across our child sponsorship projects.

In the Giyani project where I visited last year, I participated in the unloading and registration of 490 bikes going to students, including sponsored children.

“When it all started, bikes only went to girls to be able to get to school. It was about access and opportunity. But because of the success, a shift has occurred to provide bikes to boys as well based on distance from school.”

Students undertake a contract to not only maintain the bike but to go to school – part of the incentive is that after two years they can keep the bike if they attend a sufficient amount of school in that time. They are also given basic maintenance training as well as a, helmet, padlock and pump.

How do I know it will make a difference?

Based on two other projects, their results show that attendance has increased from 35% to 82%, homework completed each day has increased from 24% to 88% and travel time has decreased for 72% of the students with bicycles to less than an hour.

Not only are fewer children missing important classes, the number of children who feel safe travelling to school has more than doubled.

But that’s not all. The bicycles are helping out our staff too.

Singita is one of the Community Care Agents who recently received a bicycle from World Vision. Singita, along with other volunteers like herself work with World Vision to monitor the needs of community members and sponsored children.

“Before I had a bike, I used to visit only five families a day, but now I can cover up to 12 families in a day,” she told me.

It’s great to see that the provision of a bike can transform the way the community operates and have such a significant impact on a child’s safety and education.

“For those 490 students now on bicycles in the Giyani project, I have no doubt they are on their way to a better education.”

Since I visited the Giyani project last year, the program has worked so well in that another 1,200 bikes will be delivered there this year. In addition, another 900 have been promised to the two other World Vision Sponsorship projects, Umzimkhulu and Ixopo, in 2016.

Support children like Alive, who deserves the opportunity to live healthily and to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and fill it with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child .