October ended on a high -- 1,603 bicycles were distributed to students, teachers and community supporters in the Chibombo district just north of Lusaka through WBR's Bicycle Empowerment Education Project (BEEP). Ceremonies were held at Chititi Primary School, where hundreds of community members were present to welcome, witness, and celebrate.
The following is a speech given by the district education board secretary in Chibombo. My comments follow:
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very glad to be part of this great day, I'm calling it a great day because it is a day when our children and our community have received a great gift, a gift that will help get to school and thereby help broaden their horizon.
Government is doing its best in providing access to quality education throughout the country, but government efforts alone are not enough. That is why the efforts of partners such as World Bicycle Relief (& WV) who have come on board to supplement government efforts are very important.
Heartfelt gratitude go to World Bicycle Relief (& WV), for this gesture of supporting 13 schools in our district with bicycles.
It is known that the nation’s greatest resource for solving critical national issues in areas of national concern is in its talented and educated children. Unless the children are able to complete basic education during their development in elementary and secondary school years, their potential to assist the nation’s future hangs in balance. Loss of talent through educational neglect can be tragic waste for both the individual and in turn for society. Children, when educated have much to contribute to society and in turn can benefit society by solving a range of problem facing humanity today. However, children from economically disadvantaged families and areas are often not afforded access to education due to various reasons.
One predominant reason for children not being able to access school in rural areas is the consequence of distance which discourages regular attendance and lower performance. In order to mitigate the effects of distance to the learners, the program, through its partners, provided bicycles to learners, teachers and community education supporters in line with the goal which was aimed at improving educational access and performance of children in primary and secondary schools.
It is good that the project is deliberately operating in locations where lack of access to education due to long distances is prevalent. Through the provision of bicycles as alternative means to allow children to access education services, the project contributed improved performance and attendance in the schools concerned.
We believe strongly that the lives of the children that attend this school will now take a different and positive turn as they will now be able to attend school more often and consequently improve their performance in class.
I therefore, encourage the parents the children themselves and all the community members to take school seriously.
Once again we thank World Bicycle Relief (& WV) and their friends (the donors) for working hand in hand in ensuring that they contribute to realizing children’s dreams here in Chibombo.
Like mentioned earlier, Government efforts alone are not enough to ensure access to quality education. We therefore encourage World Bicycle Relief (& WV) to work even harder to help us achieve the great vision of education for all our children. The needs are many and unlimited, but together we can bridge this gap.
Therefore, we encourage you not to get tired in your efforts. We certainly still need your further support here. If I were allowed to think loudly, I would recommend that the project be extended to teachers in far flank schools, as this would spur them on. One of the challenges we face as Ministry of Education is to send teachers to remote areas as they have a habit of shunning such places, because of the challenges they face with movements. But if this project, though coming to an end, provided bicycles, it would encourage the teachers to take such postings as their transport challenges would be half-solved.
Once again, I thank World Bicycle Relief (& WV) for their continued support.
Thank you very much and God bless you all.
2012 BEEP Results
This year, some 20% of the Buffalo bicycles entering the field will have been put there through philanthropic (donor) means (BEEP). The remaining 80% will be through commercial sales (~70%) and corporate social responsibility programmes in South Africa (~10%).
Last year, prior to bicycle distribution, just 33% of students traveled to school in <1 hour; nearly 89% of students were able to get to school in <1 hour after the bicycles were distributed. The percentage of students who required >2 hours to get to school was reduced from 29% to <1%.
We believe that reduced travel times contribute to the increased attendance rates (65% before to 80% after). With less time commuting, the children not only go to school more, but have more time to study --- average grades increased from 37 to 60.
World Vision was thanked in the speech every time in accordance with WBR, but taken out for this posting. World Vision has ADPs (area development programs) across Zambia with a solid infrastructure in place, including but not limited to a network of on-ground staff and other contacts. Said infrastructure is leveraged by WBR in a successful partnership to distribute bikes more efficiently and effectively, but it is my personal opinion, albeit biased, that in terms of the bicycles themselves, the work was done through WBR. By both the team here -- from warehouse assemblers to country directors -- and the team based in America -- including its donor base.