1 100 bicycles handed over by Volkswagen to schoolchildren in rural Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal

28 May was a special occasion for 600 learners in the Nkonkobe district of the Eastern Cape as they received brand new bicycles funded by Volkswagen as part of the Bicycle Education Empowerment Programme (BEEP).

Through its partners, Qhubeka, World Vision South Africa and World Vision Switzerland, Volkswagen handed over 600 bicycles to learners in 11 rural schools today, following on from the 500 bicycles it supplied to nine rural schools in Umzimkhulu, KwaZulu-Natal in April. In total, the company has provided 1,100 bicycles to 20 schools over the last two months.

“Education is one of our key pillars in our quest to be a company with meaning and impact through our Corporate Social Investment initiatives under the banner of Volkswagen for Good,” says Thomas Schaefer, Managing Director: Volkswagen Group South Africa.  “As the maker of people’s car, we are passionate about South Africa. This drives us to working towards making a sustainable difference in the fight against poverty and community upliftment.”

BEEP aims to address the challenge of distance as a barrier to education.  Recent statistics show that of the estimated 17 million children in school in South Africa, 11million walk to school each day, with 500 000 of these learners walking more than an hour (up to 6km) one way. The result is high levels of non-attendance and fatigue, low performance and increased drop-out rates. Girls, who are often kept home to help with chores, are particularly vulnerable.

BEEP was originally started in 2009 in Zambia by World Bicycle Relief (Qhubeka is World Bicycle Relief’s programme in South Africa). The initial programme demonstrated that bicycles could provide a safe, reliable and affordable mode of transportation for the learners, and assist in improving school attendance and academic results. Qhubeka, in partnership with World Vision South Africa, introduced BEEP in South Africa in 2013. To date 8,100 bicycles have been delivered in five provinces.

Volkswagen is one of the largest donors of the BEEP programme. 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.

“Qhubeka is delighted to be partnering with Volkswagen to provide access to education through bicycles to children in South Africa,” says Qhubeka Executive Director Sarah Phaweni.  “Thanks to Volkswagen’s generous donation, distance no longer needs to be a barrier to education for 1,100 school children in Nkonkobe and Umzimkhulu.”

She adds that research shows that education is an essential element in the fight to end the cycle of poverty in developing countries. “With BEEP we can make an immediate difference to school attendance as well as improve children’s wellbeing with reliable and affordable transportation,” she says.

Paula Barnard, National Director of World Vision SA, adds, “With BEEP 2015 well underway we’re undoubtedly meeting what we set out to achieve – reaching the most rural of communities to enable these children to attend school on time and so improve their overall educational outcomes.”

Each BEEP 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 (for example, that the bicycle will be used to attend school). A Bicycle Supervisory Committee is also set up at each recipient school, including representatives from the school, student governing body, local community leaders, and parents. The Bicycle Supervisory Committee’s role is to not only select beneficiaries, but also enforce the two-year study-to-own contract, which governs the use of the bicycle.

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

“Through our partnership with Qhubeka and World Vision South Africa, we seek to make a small difference, but with big impact on the lives of young boys and girls in the most rural parts of our country,” says Schaefer.  “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.”

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