Securing a better future, with bicycles
Qhubeka Charity is an NGO that focuses on children as active, positive change makers in their homes and communities. We believe that providing children with transportation gives them the means to access basic goods and services and, critically, education, which contributes to their happiness and fulfilment. This in turn helps them reach the necessary milestones to achieve better outcomes to reduce their social and health risk factors later in life.
As UNICEF notes, children who grow up impoverished often lack the food, sanitation, shelter, healthcare and education they need to survive and thrive. About 1 billion children are multidimensionally poor and another 100 million have been pushed into poverty due to COVID-19.
At the start of the pandemic in 2020, Qhubeka’s work was affected by lockdowns that halted our efforts in communities and our manufacturing endeavours.
At the end of 2020, when regulations were relaxed and communities, economies and supply chains started opening up, we set about rebuilding our bicycle supply and community work. We learnt that women and girls were the hardest hit by the pandemic and adjusted our response to assist. To do this, we formed new partnerships with schools and community health and safety organisations.
We moved parts from our warehouses to our bicycle manufacturing and assembly facilities and within a few months were able to rebuild our assembly and logistics capability, although we had to operate under regulations curbing numbers of workers and stipulating workflow distancing, sanitation and masking.
Programming was made difficult by school closures and regulations limiting access to learners. We responded by concentrating on getting children back to school and distributed over 4 000 bicycles, mostly to eight secondary schools in five neighbouring villages.
During the pandemic, access to healthcare in rural areas was also severely restricted, so we supported 300 voluntary community healthcare workers in the five villages with bicycles. In addition, we engaged voluntary community patrollers, giving them bicycles for increased patrolling and visibility. A cornerstone of our philosophy is to work hand-in-hand with communities to co-create solutions that will meet their needs on the ground.
We are delighted with the impact in the villages where we worked. Across the eight schools the final year drop-out rate decreased by 40% and the pass rate improved by 6,8% from the previous year. Healthcare patient retention rates increased by 150%, reported crime decreased, and women and children reported seeing their community patrollers more often and feeling safer as a result.
At the centre of our drive for change is the deployment of bicycles. We focus on building the best purpose-built bicycle possible. We design, evaluate, and eliminate weakness to build the bicycle to be stronger, simpler, and more robust than other bicycles. The Qhubeka Bicycle serves the daily commuting needs of rural people who travel long distances over rugged terrain with heavy cargo. Our programme model includes a network of shops to supply spare parts, bicycles, and trained field mechanics to service our bicycle ecosystem.
We have also taken greater responsibility for the sustainability of our supply chain by reducing imports and implementing reshoring and local manufacturing capability.
Measuring the impact of affordable transport on child well-being is an important indicator for success, and we constantly strive to understand what works best in addressing the challenges that affect child well-being. We are dedicated to delivering, measuring, and communicating impact and we use research and regular monitoring of progress to make changes so that more children can experience fulfilled lives.
We have seen that where we have implemented our programmes, children’s families and communities also experience positive benefits. To mitigate rapid economic decline and unemployment, Qhubeka’s supporters have contributed to funding mechanic work-to-earn programmes and community-owned manufacturing and assembling facilities to extend the economic benefits of the bicycle supply chain in local communities. Thanks to them, many communities are gaining opportunities to thrive. However, if people are to truly trade their way out of poverty, Qhubeka Bicycles need to reach more people.
At Qhubeka, we’re more dedicated than ever to securing a better future for vulnerable people by providing bicycles. To achieve this, we need supporters to help us communicate the demand for Qhubeka Bicycles, to raise financial support to meet this demand, and to amplify the voices of children and families about how critical it is to facilitate access to education. We need to show businesses, leaders and the public to why it’s essential for learners to finish school. It’s in all of our interests, now and in the future.
I firmly believe Qhubeka is a thought leader and a catalyst for change in advancing sustainable access to education, which is central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
I look forward to keeping you updated on our progress in support of these ambitions through our ongoing engagement and future reports.