CYCLE AID FOR AFRICA
Cycle Aid for Africa is a hugely successful Education Africa project that distributes bicycles to under-resourced schoolchildren who have to travel enormous distances to attend school every day.
The project was launched on 20 March 1997 by then Deputy-President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki. Speaking at the launch, he described Cycle Aid for Africa as a project that represents a “practical way in which we seek to empower communities in their quest for a better education”.
The bicycles are allocated to learners as part of an incentive scheme for good school results. They remain the property of the school provided they are well looked after and maintained. Schools that are allocated bicycles are also given a lock-up container in which they bicycles can be safely stored, as well as helmets and a maintenance kit.
Experience has shown that learners who are relieved of the burden of having to walk long distances to attend school are more attentive, more focused and produce better results.
BACKGROUND TO THE PROJECT
The project was first started with the assistance of the Osaka Prefectural Government in Japan, the University of Pretoria, NOCSA (National Olympic Committee of South Africa) and the Japanese Embassy. The Osaka Prefectural Government assisted with an initial donation to Education Africa of thousands of bicycles that had been abandoned and discarded in the Osaka Prefectural cities. The Japanese Embassy funded the transportation of the bicycles to Education Africa in South Africa for distribution. Education Africa has moved forward with Cycle Aid for Africa, taking it to a new level. We now use locally manufactured mountain bikes which are more hardy and durable, allowing us to deliver far better bicycles to schoolchildren in need.
EDUCATION AFRICA PARTNER SCHOOLS
Education Africa resourced partner schools:
- identify the under-resourced schools where the bicycles will be used;
- host the bicycle workshops; and
- teach learners how to monitor and service bicycles. They, in turn, work with the learners from the under-resourced schools to maintain the donated bicycles on a continued, long-term basis.
The partner schools are well equipped from the workshops to provide continual follow-up to the under-resourced schools in terms of the maintenance and correct use of the bicycles. This process encourages a constant communication between the resourced and under-resourced schools which, in turn, builds a community and encourages dialogue and the sharing of skills and resources.
A good example of the process is our partner school, Kearsney College in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Through two of its outreach schools, its learners have learnt to maintain and service their bicycles. They then work with the learners from the under-resourced schools in maintaining their bicycles. As well as the sharing of resources and skills between resourced and under-resourced schools, this also allows for an interaction between the children, which facilitates tolerance and learning about each other’s backgrounds. Learners from resourced schools thus become aware of the hardships learners from under-resourced environments endure, such as their difficulty in accessing the most basic transport (a luxury which we take for granted) to and from school every day.
CYCLE AID FOR AFRICA WORKSHOPS
A programme of distribution, maintenance and monitoring is required in order to ensure the durability and success of the bicycles. Education Africa sub-contracts local bicycle distributors to help run necessary training workshops for this purpose.
The workshops are conducted for several young learners from the Education Africa resourced partner schools. Learners are taught the theory of bicycle maintenance and then apply the theory by repairing a bicycle, taking turns to fix a tyre or the brakes, etc. These learners then go on to share what they have learnt with the learners from the under-resourced schools to which the bicycles are donated. This assistance is ongoing.
Many children who attend under-resourced schools in impoverished communities come from rural areas, and have to walk for hours every day just to get to school and back. When they arrive at school they are already tired, which naturally affects their scholastic performance.
Cycle Aid for Africa has improved the quality of life of many of these disadvantaged children. They now arrive at school on time, and their concentration and educational performances are improving.