In some ways, Scholastica Chepkosgei seems like your typical teenager.
The 17-year-old loves playing sports after school. She takes pride in how fast she can ride her bike – and how her younger cousins think she’s cool for carrying them to class in the mornings. She has big dreams for her future. She wants to help people in her community who are struggling.
But little about Scholastica’s life is typical.
Racing the sun
Scholastica’s parents live in a small village far away from their daughter, trying to make ends meet. In order to attend school, Scholastica stays with her grandparents and uncle in Chepkongi, Kenya.
Every morning, Scholastica wakes at 4 a.m. to make the fire and cook breakfast for her young cousins and herself. She also bathes and dresses the little ones. After finishing her chores and dropping her cousins at school, she travels to Sambut Secondary School.
Before receiving a Buffalo Bicycle, Scholastica was constantly tired and her concentration in class low after waking early and walking 7 km to get to class.
Dropout levels are high at Sambut Secondary – and long distances to school are a major factor, according to the Ministry of Higher Education.
Upon returning home, Scholastica still has chores to complete before night falls. She finishes her day by doing the family’s laundry and squeezing in final studies for the next day’s learnings – when she’ll wake at 4 a.m. and do it all over again.
Life with a Buffalo Bicycle
In September 2015, Scholastica’s school received Buffalo Bicycles through the Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program (BEEP) to help overcome the barrier of distance. She was among the first beneficiaries.
“The bicycles have boosted so much,” says Mr. Simiyu, the principal at Sambut. Students come to school over the weekend and study without teachers’ supervision. Absenteeism is down. And if they’re sick, students use the bicycle to seek a proper medical checkup.
With her Buffalo Bicycle, Scholastica now drops her cousins off at primary school and still arrives for her own classes on time.
Scholastica cycles to school Monday through Saturday. She now takes advantage of the extra Saturday study sessions with her classmates – something she never had the time or energy to do before.
“My favorite subject is Christian Religious Education,” Scholastica says. “I want to be a nun when I grow up as I want to help the poor in society.”
She also has time to return to school in the evenings for studying and extracurricular activities. “I am an athlete, so I get plenty of time to practice,” she says. “Unlike before.”
Not one to waste a moment of daylight, Scholastica continues her routine into the evening. “I cycle very fast to get home before dark, then go fetch water in the river,” she says.
A New Sense of Security
Scholastica’s Buffalo Bicycle also has given her a new sense of freedom and security. She now rides past bullies and idle boys in her village who discourage young girls from attending school.
“When I was walking, the boys would stop me and talk,” Scholastica says. “They offer a ride. When we arrive home, they say I don’t need to pay. They want something else. They are dropouts and say I should drop out too because it’s too long of a way to school anyway. We stop because we are polite. Then they follow us any way they can. If we don’t listen to them, they might even throw something or hit us.”
With a smile, she boldly says, “With the bicycle, it’s hard for boys to flag me down. Even before they do, I have already flown past them. Especially if we ride as a group of girls. The bicycle has boosted my confidence. I am not scared of boys anymore.”
You can help more students like Scholastica in their daily race against the sun.
Give the gift of time.