Volkwagen and partners follow up on commitment

VW mainWorld Bicycle Relief recently reported that the academic performance of learners increased by an average of nearly 60% after they were given a bicycle. (Images: Bicycle Education Empowerment Programmes (BEEP))

Following up on the commitments they made earlier this year, Volkswagen and its partners Qhubeka and World Vision South Africa returned to a rural school in KwaZulu-Natal to maintain the bicycles they had donated to some of the learners.

The car maker, bicycle maker and humanitarian organisation donated 1 100 bicycles to learners at 20 rural schools in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape in April and May respectively; they returned in August to one of the KwaZulu-Natal schools to conduct bicycle maintenance, a road safety clinic and to deliver backpacks filled with books and stationery.

As one of the larger donors to Bicycle Education Empowerment Programmes (BEEP), Volkswagen looks to make a telling difference in the lives of the children involved with BEEP.

According to the programme, each bicycle costs R2 320. Learner beneficiaries and their parents are required to sign a contract stipulating the terms and conditions of use, which include school attendance. When the contract ends two years after signing, the bicycle then belongs to the student.

World Bicycle Relief recently reported that the academic performance of learners increased by an average of nearly 60% after they were given a bicycle. This was coupled with a 28% increase in school attendance as a result of students spending less time commuting and more time in class.

Thomas Schaefer, the managing director of Volkswagen Group South Africa, said the success of the partners’ initial donation of bicycles had inspired them “to look at other opportunities to extend our commitment to making a small but impactful difference in the lives of the learners in the schools we are supporting.

“As a result we have partnered with some of our dealerships in KwaZulu-Natal and Nal’ibali in donating reading material and stationery to the schools. We hope reading will empower the learners and open their eyes to a new world filled with indefinite opportunities.”

The bicycle maintenance and skills and safety clinic ensures over-all upkeep of bikes and teaches general road safety. A well-maintained bicycle requires fewer repairs, meaning lower repair costs, which builds the benefits of having a bicycle.

Through the clinic, local mechanics are trained to maintain the bikes. They enter into a service-to-own contract, whereby they pledge to provide repair support to BEEP for a certain period of time. Typically this is two years, after which they receive full ownership of their own bicycles.

The bicycle maintenance and road safety clinic is a pilot project and will be rolled out to all other bicycle recipients later this year. “It is wonderful [if] donors like Volkswagen South Africa continue to invest in the longevity of BEEP, supporting efforts to teach children how to ride safely and proficiently, which ultimately contributes to the sustainability of the programme,” said Paula Barnard, the national director of World Vision SA.

Sarah Phaweni, the executive director of Qhubeka, said that while the bicycles were built for difficult terrain, “like all bicycles they perform best when well looked-after and maintained.

“Our goal is to make BEEP sustainable in the long run, which is why we are delighted that Volkswagen South Africa has been so supportive in helping us fund follow-up bicycle maintenance and safety clinics. Our hope is that with well-maintained, beautiful, strong bicycles the children will be part of a culture in South Africa that promotes bicycle use.”

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NAL’IBALI

With the help of 12 participating KwaZulu-Natal Volkswagen dealerships, books and stationery were collected. They were packed in backpacks along with a Nal’ibali bilingual story-card and supplement to encourage reading for leisure.

Nal’ibali, which means “here is the story” in isiXhosa, is a national campaign aimed at encouraging children to read for leisure as well as spark their potential through storytelling and reading.

“Regular interaction with people who share interesting and exciting books and stories in home languages allows children to build a deep understanding of their mother tongue. This ensures a firm foundation for learning not only an additional language, but for all other school learning too,” explained Carole Bloch, the executive director of Praesa, the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa. Praesa runs the Nal’ibali campaign.