Wheels for rural school kids

29 April 2003

A bicycle handover at a rural primary school in Mpumalanga was hardly over when the excited children immediately jumped onto their bikes and tried to ride them. Some succeeded, while others fell, but got up and tried again and again.

The 44 bicycles, worth R5 500, were handed over to Mobani Primary School, near Lydenburg on Friday, by the Telkom Foundation.

“This is not just about the transport,” said Bheki Tshabalala from Telkom. “The bicycles will also instil a sense of ownership, responsibility, accountability, and discipline as the children will have to look after them as proud new owners.”

Mobani primary school first came to Telkom’s attention during its Rally-to-Read initiative in which books were delivered to remote schools. The school is housed in a small three-bedroom farmhouse.

Farm owner Hennie van der Merve offered the farmhouse as a school after the previous school building, which was on another farm in the area, burned down soon after the farm was sold.

“We don’t know who burned the school down. We arrived there one day and everything was reduced to ashes,” said principal Constance Sepobe. “Van der Merwe offered his premises because he loves children.”

The school has two teachers and 86 children, some of whom have to walk up to 20km to school every day, with the result that some eventually drop out of school.

“I’m so happy about these bicycles,” said one pupil, Lukas Makunyane, who takes an hour to get to school. “At least I can concentrate on my studies as I won’t have a reason to bunk school anymore.”

Shova Lula – Ride Easy Also on Friday, President Thabo Mbeki also handed out bicycles to the value of more than R1-million to school children in the Ganyesa village in North West province.

Seventeen-year-old Keneilwe Moeketsi of Thusothebe High School in the North West is a young, happy pupil, oozing confidence – a trait that will undoubtedly see her pass matric this year. Keneilwe is the proud owner of a new maroon mountain bike that will help her cycle her way to success.

She is one of many rural Ganyesa pupils whose 10 kilometre daily walk to school would be cut short following the receipt of the bicycles, as part of government’s efforts to provide children with easy access to education.

Shova Lula (Ride Easy), a bicycle project jointly funded by the education and transport departments, targets pupils who travel in excess of 10 kilometres per day between school and their homes, where normal passenger transport services do not exist.

An unbelieving Keneilwe welcomed the gift, vowing to do everything possible to pass her matric, because she says she would “no longer come late to school”.

“I am happy because this bicycle will help me to arrive in time for my classes. I will not miss any class anymore,” she said, fighting tears of joy.

Mbeki challenged the pupils to take advantage of their new status to improve the school’s matric results. “You must work together with your teachers to produce the best matric results this year,” said Mbeki.

Source: BuaNews