Friday, February 20, 2009

World Bicycle Relief delivering 50,000 bikes to Zambian schools

World Bicycle Relief co-founder Leah Missbach Day (L) signs the Memorandum of Understanding with Permanent Secretary of the Zambian Ministry of Education, Lillian E.L. Kapulu. (World Bicycle Relief)

International relief organization World Bicycle Relief (WBR) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Zambian Ministry of Education, engaging the two parties to work together to deliver some 50,000 bicycles to schoolchildren, teachers, and community supporters in Zambia’s 16 neediest districts.

The MoU, signed in Lusaka February 5th, sets forth a programme that will distribute approximately 100 bicycles each to some 500 schools in Zambia’s nine provinces.

Working in partnership with local communities and other relief organizations, World Bicycle Relief will begin distributing the bicycles in June to students, teachers, and community supporters. To further enhance sustainability, World Bicycle Relief will also identify local field mechanics where the bicycles will be distributed to train and supply them with the proper tools and spare parts access to properly maintain and repair the bicycles.

"Currently, only 20 percent of primary schoolchildren in Zambia complete their grade 12 education," said WBR co-founder Leah Missbach Day. "While this problem has multiple causes, one thing that can have an immediate impact is safe, reliable transportation to and from school. Some children travel up to 15 miles – or five hours on foot – to and from school each day. Children who walk these distances – especially girls – are at increased risk of harassment and fatigue, and are not adequately prepared to learn."

Recognizing the particular vulnerability of female children, and the importance to overall development goals of educating girls, the program favors girls: 70 percent of student recipients will be girls; 30 percent will be boys. The World Bank has recognized 'there is no investment more effective for achieving development goals than educating girls.' And UNICEF speaks of the beneficial 'multiplier effect' on society that comes from making sure girls are educated.

According to Day, the World Bicycle Relief Bicycle Educational Empowerment Program seeks to:

Improve access to education for pupils that have not reported to school due to the distance to the nearest school
Improve school attendance and performance of vulnerable children – especially girls - by reducing the time they spend traveling to and from school
Improve the safety and security of vulnerable children when traveling to and from school
Increase participation in continuing professional development of teachers.

"This initiative builds on World Bicycle Relief's successful model of providing bikes to needy local populations that it pioneered following the 2004 tsunami, and then refined for its Project Zambia healthcare initiative," Day added. "To date, the organization has provided more than 50,000 bicycles through its projects."

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