Going to school used to be a difficult task for Aleni. The walk, 6 to 7 km, took at least three hours each way. The river on her route in Ntchisi, Malawi, sometimes became uncrossable.
“Some days, I wouldn’t go to school because I was very scared of meeting certain boys on the path. They may shout, throw stones, or stop me and make propositions,” said 16-year-old Aleni. “I could not avoid these boys.”
Aleni could only embark on her trek to school if she wasn’t too tired from the previous day’s journey.
“My friends used to discourage me about school. Some even mocked me – told me to drop out of school so that l should be like them. They would say, ‘Why are you bothering yourself like that, walking long distances to school? Why can’t you just leave and be like us?’”
But Aleni didn’t let that discourage her.
“After receiving the Buffalo Bicycle, my school life has changed so much. My performance has greatly improved. Now my journey to school is easier and faster,” says Aleni. “The same friends are admiring me now. Most of them have gone back to school, hoping to get a bicycle one day, just like me.”
Through World Bicycle Relief’s Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program (BEEP), students like Aleni receive bicycles to help improve attendance, performance, and retention in school.
With a bicycle, students’ academic performance increases up to 59%.
“Education is good because once l complete my studies l will get a better job and support myself and my parents,” Aleni says.
If Aleni completes standard 8, she will be the first in her family – and the first from her community – to go to secondary school.
Aleni’s trip to school remains difficult, taking almost 2 hours each way. But she no longer fears the boys along the road. And the saved time and effort leave her less exhausted in the mornings.
Now, she can focus on dreams for the future: becoming a nurse.
“As a girl l feel it is very important for women to be self-reliant and independent. I use my bicycle to go to church, to go to market, to go visit the hospital, to go to school, and to go play with my friends.”
“I am proud of myself.”