Education Secretary Armin Luistro said bike donations from the Bikes for the Philippines Foundation Inc. will provide suitable means of transportation for poor but deserving individuals and help teach them valuable skills making this a two pronged benefit.
"The students have a hard time going to school due to lack of suitable transportation and they are at high risk of dropping out," Luistro said. “The bikes will not only help them get to school but also provides a way to teach road safety and environmentalism.”
The importance of this project, dubbed Bikes for Education, is clear and simple: keeping kids in school. Throughout the Philippines the drop rate among students is a persistent problem. According to DepEd data, the drop-out rate among high school students in Bohol was high at 5.63 percent in 2011.
This pilot bike project brought about 150 bikes to students in Bohol with another 200 about to be delivered to a neighboring school district. Recently another 50 were delivered to a school on the island of Cebu. Every single bike represents one step closer to graduation for its new owner.
The school day runs from 8 to 5 and if the kids are late they have to sit out until the afternoon session, missing valuable lessons. The roads to school are also steep and rough and students are often walking home in the dark. After completing family chores there is little time for homework.
Although motorized transportation is available in these areas, the fares are often too expensive. The rides can also be quite dangerous. Walking six miles round trip to school is often a burden some families cannot endure and students are forced to drop out.
Students are encouraged to mentor younger students and often take part in community activities from feeding orphans, to spreading cycling advocacy in town, to standing up for environmental causes like Earth Hour.
Bikes for the Philippines director Joel Uichico said they are looking into expanding the project to cover more areas. With the partnership forged between Bikes for the Philippines and Department of Education this is a hope and dream likely to come true.
"I have asked the field offices to evaluate their areas to see if their students can be beneficiaries as well," Luistro said. This partnership is like adding hundreds of feet to the ground, people who are in place already who can provide feedback in many different areas of the Philippines.
The success of the original pilot program was in large part thanks to the combined efforts of the educational system of Baclayon. The teachers, principals, and school administrators made this effort work. The program itself was incorporated into the school curriculum. Teachers had first hand knowledge of how the bikes were making a difference in the classroom from kids coming to school with completed homework to participating in class with increased energy and enthusiasm.
This project was put together like a classroom assignment and carried out by those who know that best. Now, working hand and hand with the Department of Education when trying to reach a country made of islands, Bikes for the Philippines is poised to reach a greater number of students in many different districts, in turn, hopefully, lowering the drop out rate significantly across the country.
The Department of Education rates a school's performance (as well as an individual teacher's) based on three indicators: National Achievement Test results, liquidation of expenses, and the drop-out rate. Lowering the national drop-out rate has been a concern for DepEd and Bikes for the Philippines. Together they hope to keep kids in school, give them an education, and build stronger communities in all areas of the Philippines.