The Right to Go to School
"Every day it takes me two hours to go to school. I get very tired every day and when I return I'm still tired." – Funeka, South African student, grade 10.
Although schools are few and far between in South Africa's rural areas, most pupils walk to school. Not seldom having to walk several miles, many students are already exhausted before class has even started. To help combat this issue Volkswagen through its partners, Qhubeka, World Vision South Africa and World Vision Switzerland handed over more than a thousand bicycles to rural schools in the past couple of months. While this is obviously not enough to provide every school child with a bicycle it is nevertheless an important project which changes lives one bicycle at a time.
Each benefiting learner receives a bicycle with a helmet, spanner, combination lock and pump. The learner and parents or guardian are required to sign a contract which stipulates the terms and conditions of using the bicycle. Meant to be an incentive to the pupils, the bicycle becomes the personal property of the learner after the two years of the contract have elapsed. Thomas Schaefer, Managing Director of Volkswagen Group South Africa, explains: "We seek to make a small difference but with big impact on the lives of young boys and girls in the most rural parts of our country. We are very hopeful that these bicycles will change the learners' approach to their schooling and encourage them to work harder to be the best that they want to be."
Giving school children access to bicycles is statistically proven to increase both attendance rates and grades. "I am very excited", says Funeka. "We've got our bicycles, so it's a good day. What this bike has brought me is freedom and my rights. I have a right to go to school, so now my rights are being fulfilled."
Education is one of the key pillars in Volkswagen's quest to be a company with meaning and impact through corporate social investment initiatives under the banner of Volkswagen for Good. For more on the automaker's approach to responsibility and sustainability you can find the newest iteration of the sustainability report readily available online at http://sustainabilityreport2014.volkswagenag.com/.