Bicycles for a better future

Jun 07, 2013, 04:36 IST | Ruchika Kher

The Campus Bicycle Project hopes to reduce drop-out rates and increase enrollment in schools in rural Maharashtra by donating bicycles to students to help them overcome their commuter woes

There is no age to make a difference to people’s lives. This holds true with 20-year-old Mumbai student Tasneem Kakal. When she learnt about the hurdles that kids in rural Maharashtra face to get educated, she decided to make things easier for them by launching The Campus Bicycle Project.

Students of Alonde School at Alonde village have received bicycles under this Project

How it works
“The Project aims to re-direct idle bicycles from urban areas to schools in rural areas for children who walk long distances to school. These distances can be demanding and coupled with a lack of infrastructural facilities, students end up dropping-out. The Project aims to reduce this drop-out rate and increase enrollment by using the bicycle as an incentive for education,” reasons Kakal, who is trying to keep the Project afloat with the help of 12 students, volunteers and members of cyclist communities. Till now, the Project has provided bicycles to Alonde School, located in Alonde village of Vikramgadh, and to a village in Dahanu. This month, they are scheduled to deliver 80 cycles to schools in Ganeshpuri and Nareshwadi.

Kakal reveals that while brainstorming on how to make education accessible for children in rural Maharashtra, she came across findings that the bicycle model is extremely popular across Africa where many organisations work on this model. “Studies in Uganda show that household income increases by 35% with the provision of a cycle to a family. According to The Guardian, when the Bihar State Government implemented its Mukhyamantri Balika Cycle Yojna (a project that gives school girls Rs 2,000 to purchase a bicycle), in three years alone 8,71,000 school girls took to the peddle as a result of the scheme. The number of girls dropping out of school fell and the number of girls enrolling rose from 1,60,000 in 2006-2007 to 4,90,000. We believe that we can replicate this in Maharashtra,” assures the project initiator, who wishes to deliver150 cycles by the end of the schools’ academic year.

Bumpy ride
However, like every good deed has its share of obstacles, working on a project like this has its own challenges. Kakal expresses that while the project has been rewarding, there are countless hurdles that need to be overcome to keep this initiative active. Harnessing a regular inflow of funds is an urgent concern especially with a student or youth run start-up project. “With skepticism already surrounding charity-based projects, it can get difficult for the youth to garner trust, and it is a challenge to acquire substantial funding. Hence, for start-up funds, we decided to garner support from the student community that we are a part of. We targetted college events and festivals; the response was tremendous,” she shares, adding that for a project to stay active, it is also important to engage with new people to volunteer. Currently, Kandivali’s Bikeshark: The Urban Bicycle Store is supporting the Project along with 

The Laptop
Skin Vault. So, if you’re keen to contribute towards a child’s education, either donate a bicycle or volunteer for the project.

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