Pedal Power: I Never Miss a Day at School

Content Creator: Garima Chaulagain
Country Featured: Nepal     
Resource Type: Feature story, photos
Type of consent received: Written consent
Date: 06/02/2021
Special Instructions: World Vision International Nepal

Sunita, 16, was supported with a bicycle by World Vision International (WVI) Nepal, which has helped her reach school on time and improve her studies.

In August 2019, when Sunita and her family were informed by World Vision International (WVI) Nepal and its partner NGO Rastriya Rojgar Prawardhan Kendra (RRPK) staff that Sunita was about to receive a bicycle, their happiness knew no bounds. She was one of the 253 girls studying in grade-7 in Sarlahi district belonging to vulnerable families, who were selected to be provided with a bicycle. The initiative was aimed at ensuring the girls’ regularity, punctuality and continuity of school.

“I can finally reach school on time. Will never miss a day at school!” Sunita felt a sense of relief. Her school is located 7 kilometers away from her home. Each day, she would have to walk around 45 minutes to school in the morning and 45 minutes more to get back home in the evening. On rainy days, the road would become slick with thick mud, making her journey to school even harder. Her parents, who worked as daily wage workers could not afford to offer her with an alternative means of transport. Every day, she would wake up early, complete her schoolwork, help her mother in the kitchen, have her breakfast and set off to school at around 9:00am. “I would be late for school most of the days. Over that, I would be so tired of all the walking that it would be impossible for me to concentrate in class,” she remembers her past days.
When the day finally arrived for Sunita to receive the bicycle, she was over moon. She could not wait to see what her bicycle looked like. As her father was away for work, she was accompanied by her next door neighbour to collect the bicycle. When she was handed the cycle at the neighbouring municipality office, Sunita was thrilled. Her cycle was purple in colour, with a black-coloured basket fixed at the front. She carefully yet excitedly looked at her bicycle - pedals, the handle, chain, chain wheels, brake and the seat. The only thought that kept running on her mind was the image of her riding her bicycle to school with her books placed in the front basket.
As Sunita did not know how to ride the bicycle, her neighbour helped her get it home. From the same day, she spent hours trying to learn to ride it. It took her three days to ride it on her own. That is when she started pedalling her way to school in her brand-new bicycle! With the time she was able to save, she thought of ways to improve herself and her studies. 

Her parents were very happy that their daughter received such an important asset. “We know how much of a struggle it was for you to walk every day to school. We were unable to provide you with a form of transport. But now that you have one, we want you to go to school every day and study hard for your future,” Sunita’s parents told her. They even told her that she would not have to do any household chores. All they wanted was for her to get a proper education.

A year and a half later, Sunita, now 16, is a grade 8 student. Her father migrated to Saudi Arabia for work just before the COVID-19 crisis. While her father is away, her mother Mina takes care of their three children including Sunita and her two brothers.
Unlike in the past, Sunita is punctual at school and never misses any classes. It takes her approximately 10-15 minutes to reach school in her beloved bicycle. She also is attentive in class and gets involved in all the classroom activities. “A year ago, I remember how she used to appear at the classroom door panicked and late. When I would ask her why she continued to be late to school every day, she would burst into tears,” her class teacher Bindeshwor said. Sunita would say that she was tired and that it took so long to reach school that she would end up with terrible ache in her legs due to all the walking.

“As I am her class teacher, I know what time she arrives at school. She has never been late to school since she received the bicycle. I’m proud to say her studies have drastically improved too,” Bindeshwor added.

Sunita’s mother Mira is relieved that her daughter’s struggles to get an education have now lessened. After receiving the bicycle, Sunita joined tuition classes. She makes sure to study at least two hours at home every day. In her free time, she plays with her friends, helps her 14-year-old younger brother with studies or talks her father and older brother, who are away from home for work.

This initiative has motivated Sunita. As a result, she is now encouraged to focus on her studies.  She wants to continue her studies so that she can fulfil a dream of becoming a teacher. As her favorite subject is Maths, she thinks she could teach it to the students. “Or maybe English, I’m not too sure right now,” she says with a beaming smile.

In August 2019, 253 girls studying in grade 7 in community schools coming from vulnerable families were provided with bicycles through Strengthening Inclusive Education (SIKAI) Project three months after its commencement. 

The SIKAI project targets to ensure equal access and participation of the most vulnerable children in education and equitable learning outcomes in basic education. It envisions integrating the education component to strengthen the education system making it inclusive, raising community
awareness, improving school environment, equipping classrooms with supplementary and inclusive learning materials, accessible and safe school infrastructure, schools with WASH facilities and play ground, improving function and governance of inclusive education and child protection systems. The project targets 72 Schools, including registered Madarsas, school children and out of school children and entire community working closely with four municipalities and rural municipalities in Sarlahi district.

(Sunita and her mother’s names have been changed for their protection.)

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