In impoverished rural Africa, attending school can be a daily struggle for some children. Children who live in Kakamega, Kenya, have to travel 10 miles or more on average to school, usually on foot. Compare this to the average primary school child in the USA who has to traverse a distance of 3.6 miles, and generally in a vehicle.
The families that cannot afford to send their children on buses or other forms of transportation are forced to make their children walk long distances to school, and naturally causes parents to worry about the safety of their children. As a result, many parents choose to keep their children at home.
Those children lucky enough to attend often have to depart hours before the start of school to arrive on time. The daily commute time and distance results in increased tardiness, exhaustion, and frequent absenteeism. Eventually, the tired child drops out of school: leaving without completing their studies. For many, especially girls, it’s the end--a total withdrawal from the educational system.
A far cry from the walk or ride to school that their counterparts in other countries have, girls bear the brunt of the many risks associated with a long, lonely walk to school. Motorbike riders, the country's makeshift transportation service often stop the girls on the road and offer them rides to school. They would befriend and try to persuade them to drop out. Boys and young men offer girls lifts, and girls fall victim to assault and rape.
It's also a situation that was remedied by a simple and cheap solution : a bicycle. Courtesy of World Bicycle Relief, a nonprofit that aims to empower impoverished communities with the help of bicycles. With these bikes, girls can arrive extra-early at school, less tired than before. They also don't have to worry anymore about walking alone.
Apart from increasing school attendance and improving academic performance, retention of girls in junior secondary education has improved. Other key benefits include the improved livelihood of bicycle beneficiaries and their families.
However, there still remain other barriers, such as school fees, books, and meals. In Africa, where families value boys more than girls, and parents have little money, only the boys are sent to school.
According to UNICEF, one in five girls have experienced violence in the past year alone. Teen birth rates are high in Kenya and teen pregnancy is known to be detrimental to education. The looming menaces of poverty, child abuse, and other traumatic events can have a damaging impact on the development of a young mind.
The solution to these problems might not be as easy, but even a slight effort can make a huge difference.