Jessica. Mercy. Juliana. Just a few of the students above who received bikes through Village Bicycle Project (VBP) last week. One of these bikes (or more!) may have come from a spring shipment delivered from Bikes for the World to Ghana, which arrived early in July.
Many of the student testimonials share a similar story line. Take Jennifer, a student at Gombele. Jennifer was fortunate to already have a bike to get to school before VBP delivered another 100 bikes to this region. She hopes to stay in school so that one day she can go to a university to study to become a nurse. She lives away from her mom and dad, coming north to care for her aging grandfather. Her parents send money so they can afford food and supplies.
Jennifer is able to remain in school because she has a bicycle to shorten the commute. She already rides 2.5 hours each way just to reach school. She doesn't eat breakfast at home or have lunch at school. She will eat when she gets home from school IF there is enough food that day. Many weeks the money runs out before the end of the week and she and her grandfather go to bed hungry.
Teachers at school confirm that many students go hungry a couple days every week, when the food runs out. They note that those hungry students struggle to concentrate on the lessons or simply leave school early. This is particularly true in April and May at the end of the dry season in Lawra when food security is at its worst.
The students at Gombele all appreciate the value of an education, many of them would like to move on to become nurses or teachers. But when they are tired or hungry they leave school early to look for food. Some drop out entirely to help their families with farming or to find other work to help support the family and provide food for their brothers and sisters every day of the week.
Mercy walks seven miles to school and seven miles home. She took part in VBP's workshops this month and received a bike to ease the stress her whole family feels with her gone so many hours commuting. She now has more time to complete her household chores before leaving for school and she doesn't have to leave at 5am anymore!
So many parents struggling to feed their children become very uninterested in school. They cannot afford to buy supplies or books for their kids enrolled in school nor can they afford to have them away from home so many hours. Putting them to work in the fields helps bring in more revenue that immediately impacts their family. Sending them to school is expensive and the benefits of education so far removed, parents given the choice, don't hesitate to pull their kids out of school.
This recent delivery of VBP bikes was requested through another organization called Action Through Enterprise (ATE). ATE has been working in Lawra, Ghana, near the northern border very close to Burkina Faso for several years now. Because of their work in rural schools including Biro and Gombele Junior High Schools, they were more than prepared to identify the students with the greatest need for bikes to ensure they could assist their families at home while still attending school. ATE has been working to provide breakfast and lunch to students through school resources to ensure that they aren't distracted during class and are better able to concentrate on learning.