Bicycles, solar lights change lives of hundreds of learners

THE little Karoo town of Calitzdorp is about to rewrite history and change the lives of hundreds of local learners who walk long distances to school after resident Jan Scannell, better known as Jan Braai, and his friend Nic Alberts recognised this challenge and decided to do something about it.

On Friday 6 May Calitzdorp High School received 201 Qhubeka bicycles (bringing the total number of bicycles that this initiative has delivered in the region to over 600) and 40 Namene Solar lights, with Gamka-Oos Primary and Excelsior Primary School received more than 930 lights – one for every learner.

Jan Braai and Alberts got in touch with Qhu­beka, a global charity that moves people forward with bicycles in Africa. From as far back as 2005, Jan Braai combined his passion for braai and cycling to unite and uplift the community through various ride and braai initiatives.

In 2015 Jan and Ninety One decided to combine efforts to help the town’s high school children get bicycles. “Donating bicycles to high school children would not only reduce travel time but also improve academic outcomes, as children can give more time to schoolwork,” says Jan Braai. Since the large-scale contributions of bicycles began in 2019, the drop-out rate of learners has declined by 7,5% to 0% in the final year. The matric pass rate has increased materially from 56,6% to 82,8%.

The success of the social initiative between Jan and several businesses has lead to the opening of the first library at Gamka-Oos Primary School and the distribution of solar lights to the learners of Gamka-Oos Primary, Excelsior Primary and the Calitzdorp High School.

Calitzdorp High School has 30 to 40 boarding school learners who have no access to electricity when they get home at the weekend. Around 90% of the 341 learners at Gamka-Oos Primary School have limited or no access to electricity at home.

This year the partnership will again focus on bicycles and with the number of Qhubeka bicycles in Calitzdorp now reaching a critical mass, the contributions from this initiative will also allow for a permanent bicycle mechanic to be based in Calitzdorp.

In addition to the above, three university students that attended Calitzdorp High School will receive laptops to further enhance their tertiary learning to become future professionals.

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