18thJul

No child without

A change of focus in our learn-to-earn programmes

Much of our work at Qhubeka centres on learn-to-earn programmes, which are focused on helping children to get to and from school. We wanted to tell you about an evolution in our thinking that’s changing the way we run these programmes.

Our aim has always been to help children who live furthest from their classrooms by providing them with bicycles to make their commute faster. To do this, we chose bicycle recipients based on several criteria, including the distance they live from school or the time it takes them to travel to school. As we’ve worked in communities across South Africa, we’ve started to realise that this methodology creates a few challenges.

Firstly, while getting to and from school is important, it is not the only place that children need or want to travel to. While a bicycle can help a child to get to class on time, it can also help to reach friends, family, healthcare facilities, sports activities, libraries, study groups and shops. Some children may live close enough to school that they don’t qualify for a bicycle, but that bicycle could help them to get to other places. For example, some children would have more time for schoolwork if they could use a bicycle to make chores like fetching water or firewood faster.

We also saw that when recipients are chosen based on distance from school, some narrowly miss out, meaning they are not close enough for walking to be convenient, but not far enough to qualify for a bicycle.

Finally, we have seen that by only providing bicycles to certain children, we can unknowingly create jealousy among their peers.

For all these reasons, we have decided to change the way we distribute bicycles to focus on “filling” the schools we work with.

What this means is that we will continue to identify schools based on need (where a large number of children will benefit from bicycles). We will then run a pilot programme at the school to assess viability of a learn-to-earn programme. The school, through successfully running this pilot, will earn the programme (rather than individual learners needing to qualify for the programme by meeting a list of criteria). We will then roll out the programme, working to support the school until every child has a bicycle.

This will ensure no child misses out and will help to shift entire communities forward by creating a critical mass of bicycle users – a new generation of South Africans whose lives have been changed with bicycles.