Even as enrollment in primary education in developing countries reaches 91%, 57 million children remain out of school. And more than half live in sub-Saharan Africa.
But the barriers to education don’t stop at the primary level. For secondary school, the number of students out of school increases dramatically – particularly for girls.
That’s why your support of World Bicycle Relief goes toward funding bicycles for education. Our Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program provides bicycles to students, teachers and school volunteers. BEEP aims to improve educational outcomes by improving access and reducing students’ travel time to school. Since 2009, more than 125,000 students – 70% of whom are girls – have been mobilized with Buffalo Bicycles.
Investing in girls so they are able to complete the next level of education can drastically improve individual lives as well as their communities and economies.
In parts of Africa, distance is just one of the many obstacles girls face in achieving higher education. It’s common for many students to travel more than 5 kilometers to class each way by foot.
For students rising to secondary school, the barriers imposed by distance are often increased in both rural and urban areas. Secondary schools in developing countries tend to be fewer in number than primary schools and are more frequently located in city centers. Without a dependable mode of transportation, many students face long daily walks or substantial travel or boarding costs.
Child marriage and pregnancy
During these long trips to and from school, girls fear assault, harassment and rape. A bicycle is an important tool in the fight to protect girls from violence, early marriage and teen pregnancy.
Most of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa commit to providing primary and lower-secondary education for all children. But many schools expel or exclude pregnant girls and young mothers. These girls often cannot re-enroll because of limited support, lack of affordable child care, high school fees and stigma.
In developing countries such as Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe,
40% of girls marry and up to 51% have given birth before turning 18.
Stella was 17 years old and approaching the end of her primary-school education when she became pregnant and gave birth to her daughter. As a single mother, Stella dropped out of school to care for her baby, and her hopes for her education dimmed. But fueled by determination, Stella eventually passed her exams and continued on to high school – despite her 12 kilometer walk each way.
Stella used to begin her day at 3 a.m. Upon receiving a Buffalo Bicycle, Stella gained several hours back in her day and no longer fears being sexually harassed on her route. She plans on using the extra time to earn money for school fees.
Stella’s story embodies the struggles, sacrifices and odds that teenage mothers in rural Africa overcome to continue their education.
How bicycles can help
As the BEEP program grows, the effects of the bicycle on girls’ education is clear.
Raliew Secondary School in Kenya received more than 200 bicycles through BEEP. Before implementing the program, 95% of Raliew students reported walking to school. By the end of 2016, 33% of 10th, 11th and 12th graders owned Buffalo Bicycles and rode to school.
In rural African schools like Raliew, 75% of girls start school, but only 8% finish secondary school. Just two years after the provision of bicycles, overall student enrollment for girls increased 14% at Raliew. And tardiness dropped from seven days per month to just one.
At WBR, it is vital to incorporate students, particularly girls, into the community-level program process. This helps set the stage for future participation in public decision-making. In a culture that prizes property ownership, a bicycle helps girls command respect. Girls also develop the confidence to succeed in other areas.
Armed with the power of mobility and an education, girls have the opportunity to shine. And when girls thrive, whole communities thrive.
Will you help us change the world with The Power of Bicycles?