Volkswagen South Africa – Changing 1 100 lives, one bicycle and one book at a time

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Volkswagen South Africa - After donating 1 100 bicycles to learners from 20 rural schools in KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape in April and May respectively – Volkswagen South Africa together with its partners Qhubeka and World Vision South Africa returned to a KwaZulu Natal school to conduct bike maintenance, a road safety clinic and deliver backpacks filled with books and stationery.

Volkswagen is one of the largest donors of the Bicycle Education Empowerment Programme (BEEP). The cost of one bicycle is R2 320 – and learners/parents or guardians are required to sign a contract which stipulates the terms and conditions of using the bicycle (school attendance). The bicycle becomes the personal property of the learner after the two year contract has elapsed.

A recent report by World Bicycle Relief revealed that academic performance increases by an average of 59% after receiving a bicycle and the average school attendance improves by 28%, as students spend less time commuting and more time in classrooms.

The success of our initial donation of bicycles has inspired us to look at other opportunities to extend our commitment to making a small but impactful difference in the lives of the learners in the schools we are supporting. As a result we have partnered with some of our dealerships in KwaZulu Natal and Nal’ibali in donating reading material and stationery to the school,” said Thomas Schaefer, Managing Director: Volkswagen Group South Africa.

Schaefer added: “We hope reading will empower the learners and open their eyes to the new world filled with indefinite opportunities.”

Following the donation ceremony earlier this year, the bicycle maintenance and skills and safety clinic ensures over-all upkeep of bikes and general safety on the roads. A well maintained bicycle requires less repairs and attracts a lower repair cost. Local mechanics are trained to maintain these bikes and enter into a service-to-own contract, whereby they pledge to provide repair support to BEEP for a certain period of time, typically two years.

“It is wonderful that donors like Volkswagen South Africa continue to invest in the longevity of BEEP, supporting efforts to teach children how to ride safely and proficiently which ultimately contributes to the sustainability of the programme,” said Paula Barnard, national director of World Vision SA.

“While our bicycles are built for difficult terrain, like all bicycles they perform best when well looked after and maintained. Our goal is to make BEEP sustainable in the long run, which is why we are delighted that Volkswagen South Africa have been so supportive in helping us fund follow up bicycle maintenance and safety clinics. Our hope is that with well maintained, beautiful, strong bicycles the children will be part of a culture in South Africa that promotes bicycle use,” said Sarah Phaweni, Qhubeka Executive Director.

With the help of 12 participating KwaZulu Natal Volkswagen Dealerships, a number of books and stationery were collected and used to fill backpacks along with a Nal’ibali bilingual storycard and supplement to encourage reading for enjoyment.

Nal’ibali (isiXhosa for “here’s the story”) is a national reading-for-enjoyment campaign to spark children’s potential through storytelling and reading.

“Regular interaction with people who share interesting and exciting books and stories in home languages allows children to build a deep understanding of their mother tongue. This ensures a firm foundation for learning not only an additional language, but for all other school learning too,” explained Carole Bloch, Executive Director of PRAESA (The Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa) which is running the Nal’ibali campaign.

The bicycle maintenance and road safety clinic is the pilot project and will be rolled out to all other bicycle recipients later this year.

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