Wanted: Bikes, boats for students in far-flung areas

Jee Y. Geronimo

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Education Secretary Armin Luistro urges local government units to add bicycle lanes for students, and to ensure safety standards for students who will ride in boats

MANILA, Philippines – Walking to school is probably a good idea if your school is right across the street, and not a few kilometers away. 

Many children in far-flung areas in the Philippines have to walk up to 2 hours just to get to school. Worse, there are students in some communities who have to swim – in full school uniform – across rivers because of their desire to study.

As the Aquino administration enters its “last two minutes” or its last two years in office,  Education Secretary Armin Luistro said they are now working on their “last mile”: reaching out to Filipinos living in areas far away from educational institutions. (READ: Education for all by 2015? Not happening, says Unesco)

“We cannot stay where the schools are. We have 46,000 schools, but the last mile is to bring the schools where they [students] are,” Luistro said on Wednesday, August 6, during the launch of the Pedals and Paddles Project. 

In partnership with the Bikes for the Philippines Foundation and the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, the Department of Education (DepEd) will distribute bicycles and boats to identified far-flung communities and schools with students who need better transportation.

As of Wednesday, the department has received requests for 40,501 bicycles and 1,451 boats. 

“Traveling to school takes a huge toll on students, not only physically but also mentally….Reducing travel time will encourage kids to attend and stay in school, and to perform better,” the education secretary said in a separate statement Wednesday. (READ: Luistro: Don’t forget far-flung schools)

Safety measures

A small, self-paddled boat which can carry 4 to 5 children costs P10,000 ($228*), while a motorized boat for 15 to 12 children costs about P50,000 ($1,142). The boats will be give communities, while bicycles which cost P2,000 ($45) each will be given to high school students (Grades 7 to 12). 

Students who will receive the bicycles will need to go through an 8-day training program which will teach them about the parts of a bicycle and its functions, as well as other skills such as bicycle fitting and riding, positions in the bicycle, and bicycle care and repair.

Athena Mendoza of the Bikes for the Philippines Foundation said the training is needed to keep the bicycles from becoming an additional burden on the families of the students. 

The students can own the bicycles only after they graduate from high school.

Luistro urged local government units to add bicycle lanes on their roads and make sure there are safety standards for students who will ride in boats. 

Hindi tayo magbibigay sa mga munisipyo kung saan yung mayor ayaw lagyan ng bike lane para masigurado na yung mga estudyante natin na may bisikleta can go to school safely,” he added.

(We will not give bicycles to municipalities that have no bike lanes to ensure that students with bicycles can go to school safely.) 

Individual donations for the bicycles and boats can be directed to the two foundations.

Bikes for the Philippines Foundation accepts bikes, helmets, and even spare parts. Other donations may be sent to their BDO accounts:

  • Peso account: #5420-128374
  • Dollar account: #10-5420-128803

Check donations abroad may be sent to Jo Grant, Bikes for the Philippines, Incorporated, 15 Amber Rd, Westminster, MA 01473.

Meanwhile, the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation does not recommend donating boats. Individual cash donations may be sent online through PayPal, and to their BDO accounts:

  • Peso account: #003170-134579
  • Dollar account: #103170-148588

Companies who want to be part of the project can enroll in DepEd’s Adopt-A-School program.

Other initiatives

Aside from the Pedals and Paddles Project, DepEd is also reaching out to more students through Efren Peñaflorida’s Kariton classrooms for street children.

Luistro said the number of street children have gone up in areas that were hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda in November 2013.

Meanwhile, DepEd said it has already exceeded the Abot Alam Program’s 2014 target, which is  to get back to school 1 million out-of-school youth aged 15 to 30 years old. (READ: DepEd 2014 target: Get 1M dropouts back to school)

“Our first target this year was to enroll 1 million Filipinos who are out of school. Our problem is that 1.2 million enrolled. But that’s okay – that’s a happy problem,” Luistro said in a mix of English and Filipino. – Rappler.com

Boats image via Shutterstock

Bicycle on mountain image via Shutterstock

*(US$1 : P43.8407)

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.