Volkswagen pedals for education
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.