Soweto learners given an easy ride to school
For Sinenjabulo Nkala, going to school had been a drag.
Not only did the 16-year-old learner have to wake up at the crack of dawn to prepare for the day ahead, but she also had to follow that up with a 10km walk to her school – Selelekela High in Orlando East, Soweto – sometimes in bitterly cold weather.
She has missed a couple of early classes because of the distance she had to travel every morning. Add the return trip and you get 20km of walking a day, 100km week or around 3 200km a year. That’s the same distance from Johannesburg to Cape Town and back.
Sinenjabulo’s woes are, however, now finally a thing of the past thanks to Qhubeka, a global non-profit bicycle relief organisation dedicated to advancing education; world-acclaimed technology company Dimension Data; and the City of Johannesburg. Sinenjabulo was one of 65 Soweto learners who received bicycles at the Orlando East Communal Hall on Thursday July 21, courtesy of the three parties, to ease their trips to school, reduce late-coming and absenteeism and improve academic performance.
Excitedly mounting her new bicycle, Sinenjabulo said: “With my new bike, I'll be spending a lot less time on the road. With it, I will definitely look forward to going to school every day.”
Since 2005 Qhubeka has provided more than 54 000 bikes to various schools across South Africa, particularly in the townships.
“In 2015 we started discussions with the City of Johannesburg on the project. We looked at the time learners spent travelling to and from school and the fact that they, particularly girls, felt vulnerable,” said Qhubeka Communications Manager Wendy van Eyk.
She said the project would cover maintenance of bicycles to sustain the initiative.
“The learners have paid R120 in advance to cover the maintenance of the bicycles and labour expenses for our technicians,” she added.
The City's Member of Mayoral Committee for Corporate and Shared Services, Cllr Mally Mokoena, said Qhubeka’s assistance would also help the City’s initiative to reduce greenhouse emissions and promote a healthy lifestyle among residents.
“Dimension Data is one of our proud partners in the City. This is a good start for learners to engage in another form of exercise. Cycling is another mode of transport we are promoting as the City. It’s also our commitment to see to it that learners benefit through this initiative. We hope it will go a long way to helping bring about change among them,” she said.
Dimension Data Executive Director Lubabalo Dyantyi said: “We’ve partnered with Qhubeka for two years now and the initiative speaks to us because the theme we’re working on is raising funds for cycling across South Africa.
“We will continue doing this until every learner is able to access school easily. As a company, we have invested in cycling and we're doing this internationally and locally through Qhubeka. We're proud to give back to needy communities,” Dyantyi said.