• Every morning Sheila has to walk more than six kilometers each way to get to and from school. The fifteen-year-old has to depart home early to get to school in time. While many of her friends have dropped out of school, one of the reasons being distance, Sheila is determined to press on motivated by the fact that she wants to be a nurse.

    This is just but one case study in Malawi. World Vision estimates that 51 percent of the Malawi population are children, and 57 percent of these children do not complete primary school. Astoundingly, 50 percent of the girls are married before they turn 18.

    Sheila and her friends should not be forced to endure such challenges when something can be done to make it possible for them to get to school quickly and safely.

    To significantly reduce the distance from home to school, does not necessarily mean building a school in the neighborhood. While this could be a better option, it comes with extra costs such as salaries to teachers and support staff, not forgetting the materials needed to sustain education in the school. But a bicycle to each child – who lives far away from school- could make all the difference.

    That is what World Bicycle Relief (WBR) has been doing since 2009 when it enrolled its first successful program in Zambia. With its Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program (BEEP), WBR has distributed over 60,000 bicycles to students and teachers in 10 countries including Eritrea, Kenya, and South Africa.

    Building upon the success of the first BEEP, World Bicycle Relief has rolled out a plan using the same comprehensive approach in similar rural communities in Malawi. The organization has already launched its July campaign to raise funds for 2,000 bicycles to students in eight schools in the Southern African nation.

    “We’ve met students in Malawi who are determined to remain in school despite the difficult and even dangerous journeys they must take to get there. A Buffalo Bicycle can provide a path forward for these students and help them realize their full potential and work in fields like medicine, law enforcement, engineering, and more,” says F.K. Day, Founder and CEO of World Bicycle Relief.

    Why bicycles?

    In rural areas in Africa, children travel extensive distances to reach school, often departing more than two hours before the start of school in order to arrive on time. This distance results in increased tardiness, absenteeism, exhaustion, and for many, particularly girls, the complete withdrawal from the educational system. Research shows that education is an essential element in the fight to end the cycle of disease and poverty in developing countries. While the scope of this problem is broad, one way to immediately increase school attendance and children’s wellbeing is to provide access to safe, reliable transportation.

    The idea of having a bicycle to ease her struggles has made Sheila very happy. “I am positive, when bicycles are here, we are going to go far,” she says adding that she wants to become a nurse so that she can help lessen the burden of the overworked health workers. “I want to prevent needless deaths,” she remarks. “Health workers here are overworked and can’t keep up with their patients.”

    Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, according to data from World Bank. More than half of its population live on less than $2 per day, making it difficult for them to afford privileges like dropping their children to school or getting them a bicycle. As such, the goal of BEEP Malawi is to improve the quality of life for targeted children, households, and communities through the Power of Bicycles. The key objectives of BEEP Malawi focus on helping students arrive safely to school, increasing school attendance and improving the academic performance of vulnerable school children and improving retention of girls in primary and secondary school.

    What you can do?

    To help keep Sheila and many more children in school, WBR is raising funds through the month of July to help launch BEEP Malawi with a goal of funding 2,000 bicycles.

    “All donations will be matched dollar for dollar up to $75,000 thanks to a generous gift from an anonymous donor,” WBR notes calling on well-wishers to support their initiative in Malawi.

    Already, 523 bikes have been funded. To enable WBR to make a difference in Malawi, visit their website and be part of the global community that will ensure school-going children get to school faster and safely!

    Image credit: World Bicycle Relief