This ongoing programme has built on the previous ERSF funded project to provide bikes to school children from disadvantaged and marginalised groups in order to speed up journeys to and from school which frees up more time for study, homework, helping with family chores, and socialising with friends; a very important part of childhood development and happiness. Our evidence clearly shows that for students who participate in the project the ownership of a bike dramatically cuts travelling time to school, and school attendance improves markedly.
Using bikes to get more children into school, fact. However our programme now builds on the supplementary benefits revealed in the monitoring and evaluation data, thereby enhancing the impact and scope of using bikes in school. Children who took part in the first project reported a variety of additional benefits including increased self-confidence and self-esteem, health benefits and an increased interest in cycling. In Nepal cycling and particularly mountain biking is becoming increasingly popular both for Nepali citizens and as part of the tourist industry. This has opened up a range of opportunities for potential employment including bicycle sales, servicing and maintenance, cycle guiding for tourists etc. Furthermore, the range of people participating in mountain biking clubs and events is really challenging the traditionally strict social divisions in Nepali society and enhancing social mobility. Cycling also helps with cognitive and perceptual development in particular developing vision, estimating distance and multi-tasking. Bikes are also being used for topic based learning, the bicycles being the subject creative base for Maths, Science and English school work.
Therefore the purposes of this project is first and foremost to increase access to school and promote education, but also to realise the myriad of additional benefits cycling has in Nepali society today.
This is done by giving bikes to young people who need them most, and teaching simple maintenance in ongoing workshops. But in addition to this we also arrange a series of workshops and educational sessions to introduce children to the supplementary advantages of cycling (as listed above). We hold a series of fun inter-school cycling meetings and events with an educational dimension and activities. We have workshops to introduce cycling as a means of income for the School Leaving generation and the socio-economic benefits of learning to cycle.
The project runs in a 4 government schools, supplying bikes, training in riding, maintenance and road safety, and then the follow up meetings and workshops to discuss the supplementary benefits and how to move forward in fundraising and further state schools. (For example Suntakhan school are developing the idea to use the bikes to raise awareness for the school in the surrounding area and a collective bicycle ride into the city as a fund-raising event – led by and carried out by the young people thereby adding to the sustainability of the impact of the bikes on the school)