“On the Way to School” declares its importance from its opening title card. “Too often we forget how lucky we are to go to school,” it says. To illustrate this point, the movie trails children from three continents on what, in most cases, are their daily journeys “toward knowledge.” As they set off, we are given the distance and the duration of their travels.
In Kenya, Jackson and his sister must avoid elephants on what is described in the film as more than a nine-mile journey that takes two hours. (“We have to go that way today,” he instructs her.) In Morocco, Zahira treks through the Atlas Mountains for about 13 ½ miles and four hours. In India, Samuel is pushed in a wheelchair by his brothers for over two miles and an hour and 15 minutes. In Argentina, Carlito and his sister ride through scenic Patagonian vistas on a horse, a trip that covers 11 miles and an hour and a half.
Of the 17 million children in South Africa, 11 million walk to school. Only 40% of South African students achieve a qualification higher than Grade 9, and half of children who enroll in Grade 1 will never pass Grade 12. 1 out of 4 girls in developing countries are not in school and 38% marry before the age of 18. Some schoolchildren spend four hours getting to school and back daily.
Of students walking to school, half a million in South Africa walk for more than an hour– up to 6km each way– thus impacting concentration and learning ability. Over 60% of students who walk to school in South Africa are in the lowest income group and rural students (8.1%) are more likely than urban (3%) or metropolitan (2.7%) students to walk more than 60 minutes to school. The challenge of distance results in increased tardiness, frequent absenteeism, exhaustion and often the complete withdrawal of the child from the education system.
Qhubeka distributes bicycles to students, teachers and school volunteers to improve access to education, reduce travel time and improve educational outcomes. Students earn bicycles through study-to-own contracts. In the short term, bicycles reduce children’s exhaustion from walking to school and help them attend regularly. In the long term, bicycles will help children complete their education, preparing them for better jobs and reducing likelihood of extreme poverty.
Key program outcomes include:
- Increased attendance of vulnerable children
- Improved performance
- Improved retention
- Better livelihoods of bicycle beneficiaries and their families
- Improved safety and security of students traveling from and to school
The cost of one bicycle for this program in South Africa is R2,850.00 and includes: component manufacturing, shipping, duty, tax, assembly, delivery, helmets, field visits, field mechanic training, monitoring and evaluation.
Before she owned a bicycle 15-year-old Ethel walked more than two hours across hilly terrain each day to attend school. With a bike, her commute now takes 45 minutes. She’s happy to arrive at school on time to pursue her goal of becoming a nurse. In addition to setting an example as a successful student, Ethel has mobilized her community by using her bicycle to transport fellow classmates to school.
If you would like to donate a bicycle to our Bicycle Education Empowerment Programme through our secure donations portal, Given Gain click here.