Bike-to-School Program Adapts to Changing Needs
Several years ago, we launched the Bike-to-School (BTS) Program as a way to provide incentive for students finishing sixth grade, and also as a way to transport students to junior high school for continuing their studies. Since that time, two things have changed. First, we helped to fund the construction of a new junior high school that is directly next to the primary school in Chanleas Dai. Its proximity means that some no longer need to travel great distances to start seventh grade. Second, we have augmented classes, trained teachers, and worked to improve the overall quality of the education primary students receive, all of which will hopefully provide a more sustainable (and substantive) incentive to stay in school. In a few significant ways, the need for bicycles has been decreased.
In speaking with teachers, students, parents, and principals, however, we realized that a lack of transportation would still be what stopped some students from going to junior high school. To remove this barrier, we have shifted to a scholarship program, wherein students who plan to enter seventh grade can apply for a bike – those who demonstrate need and live outside of a certain radius will be offered one and junior high school teachers will monitor their attendance throughout the year. Hotel de la Paix in Siem Reap generously donated 20 bikes, which have been painted “PEPY green” and await young student riders, who have just heard presentations in their sixth grades before school ends for the summer. In the coming months, we will go through the applications we receive and purchase additional bikes as needed so that all who need one get one. Biking to school is still the goal – we’re just making sure that the program meets needs as appropriately as possible!