Volk­swa­gen ped­als for ed­u­ca­tion

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - — Wheels Re­porter.

IT was a spe­cial oc­ca­sion for 600 pupils in the Nkonkobe dis­trict of the Eastern Cape on May 28 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 pupils in 11 ru­ral schools, 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 past 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,” said man­ag­ing direc­tor of Volk­swa­gen Group South Africa Thomas Schae­fer.

“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, 11 mil­lion walk to school each day, with 500 000 of th­ese pupils walk­ing more than an hour (up to six kilo­me­tres) 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 pupils, 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, among other things, com­po­nent man­u­fac­tur­ing, de­liv­ery, hel­met, train­ing of the field me­chanic as well as ADP’s mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion pro­gramme.

Each pupil re­ceives a bi­cy­cle with a hel­met, span­ner, com­bi­na­tion lock and pump. The pupil 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, pupil gov­ern­ing body, lo­cal com­mu­nity lead­ers, and par­ents. The Bi­cy­cle Su­per­vi­sory Com­mit­tee’s role is not only to 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 pupil af­ter the two years of the con­tract have elapsed.

“We are very hope­ful that th­ese bi­cy­cles will change the pupils’ ap­proach to their school­ing and en­cour­age them to work harder …” said Schae­fer.

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