Cycling out of poverty

By Oxfam
Grace, a schoolgirl in Southern Malawi, rides to school on her new bike. Photo: Corinna Kern/Oxfam

Oxfam-provided bicycles help girls in Malawi stay in school.

More than half of secondary school-age girls in Malawi aren't in school. Grace is determined not to be one of them, though her school is nine miles away and getting there by foot takes at least two hours each way.

Imagine walking four hours to get to school. That’s dedication. But the distance almost forced her to drop out.

That all changed when she got her hands on a bike.

"Before I got the bike, I got home late from school and was too tired to do my homework,” says Grace. “If I was given an exercise to do by the teacher, I would not do well. Now that I have this bike, I’m often the first at school."

The bike is one of 30 Oxfam has so far provided to girls in schools across southern Malawi.

The selection process is facilitated by a school committee comprised of teachers, managers, head girls and boys, representatives from the families, and social workers. 

We believe the distribution of bicycles will remove barriers to access and motivate parents and guardians to keep girls in school. These bicycles represent more than transportation—they are a tools to help these girls lift themselves out of poverty.

Girls from Chembera secondary school in Balaka District, Malawi, pose with Oxfam-provided bicycles, which are making the girls' commutes to and from school safer and less strenuous. Photo: Corinna Kern/Oxfam

Alice, 14, missed one day of school every week because the 12-mile walk to and from school took too much out of her. “The walk was a bad experience,” says Alice. “I would go to school on Monday, but then on a Tuesday I would be absent as I was so sick and tired. I was arriving at school so tired. I couldn’t concentrate. I tried to work hard, but I was just so tired.”

Two weeks ago, her life changed when she got her bicycle. Now there’s no more missing lessons because she’s too tired from her journey. 

Now, when Alice leaves her home at 6 a.m., she arrives at school at 6:30 a.m. “I am hopeful that I will finish my education and get a good job,” says Alice. “I want to be a nurse.”

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