Barbadian singer Rihanna is using her clout as a world famous pop star to support education in Malawi. Through her charity she is donating much-needed bicycles and financial support to learners to help them stay in school. The initiative follows her recent visit to Malawi.
The five-year bike programme is part of a partnership between Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). Chinese bicycle manufacturer Ofo is making and delivering the bikes to Malawi for free.
The foundation, started by Rihanna in 2012 as a tribute to her grandparents, who taught her the importance of education, is dedicated “to improving the quality of life for communities globally in the areas of health, education, arts and culture”.
It has already helped to build medical facilities in Barbados, as well as sponsored scholarships for underprivileged young women in the US, Brazil, Cuba and Haiti. It also helps to finance and support artisan fashion manufacturing in Haiti.
In February 2017, Rihanna was named Humanitarian of the Year by the Harvard University Foundation for her organisation’s charity work.
Following a visit to Malawi in June 2017, where she met local NGOs and educators, Rihanna started the 1 KM Action Campaign, which will donate bicycles to Malawian schoolgirls.
“[The initiative] will be solely dedicated to helping the young girls of Malawi get to school safely, cutting down those very long walks they make to and from school all alone,” the singer said in announcing the programme.
Her foundation has delivered the first batch of 100 bikes to the community, and will continue to sponsor delivery of more than 3,000 bicycles over the next five years.
As simple as the idea of a bicycle that enables a child to get to school is, says the GPE, the contribution will go a long way towards helping to solve some of the regional transport challenges contributing to Malawi’s high drop-out rates. Although 4.6 million children attend primary school in Malawi, only 8% reach and complete secondary education. The drop-out rate is higher for girls, for a variety of reasons, but transport is the primary stumbling block.
During her visit to Malawi to finalise the programme, Rihanna said: “It’s such a pity that they have to drop out, because they are so smart. It’s sad that has to end for some of them, because they could probably do so much if they had the resources to continue and complete [their schooling].”
In addition to the bikes, the girls involved in the initiative will benefit from the Clara Lionel Foundation scholarship programme, which sponsors university studies for young women. Speaking to USA Today about her involvement in education, Rihanna said that “to be able to give the gift of an education is actually an honour. Higher education will help to provide perspective, opportunities and learning to a group of kids who really deserve it. I am thrilled to be able to do this.”
Watch a short documentary about Rihanna’s visit to Malawi and the 1 KM Action Campaign
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