A South African charity has undertaken to tackle an educational stumbling block that many disadvantaged pupils face daily – the long trek to school.
Earlier in October, Qhubeka Charity celebrated an important milestone – the distribution of its 100,000th bicycle to a pupil in need.
Qhubeka’s story began 14 years ago.
Anthony Fitzhenry, an IT entrepreneur, set out to fund computer centres for schoolchildren in poorer communities. These centres did not have the impact Anthony envisioned, but in the process he learned that the children’s biggest challenge was their lack of personal transport.
Qhubeka means “to progress” or “to move forward”. The organisation helps recipients access schools, clinics and jobs faster. Established in 2005, it has been distributing bicycles through “learn-to-earn” and “work-to-earn” programmes.
“Although we feel like 100 000 bicycles has been a long time coming, we have learned so much along the way, and tailored our strategy accordingly to help impact as many people’s lives as possible.”Qhubeka Executive Director, Tsatsi Phaweni.
“I realised that if we could improve children’s mobility, we could improve their access to education.” It was out of this discovery that Qhubeka Charity was born.
Anthony founded Qhubeka as a corporate social investment project, and it has grown to become an international standalone charity, headquartered in South Africa, with supporters around the world, a limited company in the UK (Qhubeka UK), and a fully-fledged bicycle manufacturing subsidiary, Real Bicycle Co. (RBC).
Qhubeka started by providing children with bicycles through their learn-to-earn programme. They’re able to get to and from school in a third of the time it takes to walk, carry their school supplies more easily, and enjoy more time in their day for leisure and homework.
Later on Qhubeka added work-to-earn programmes for adults. In addition, they assisted with disaster relief programmes to help serve communities in the wake of a crisis.
“Over the past few years, we have concentrated our efforts into specific regions.”Qhubeka Founder Anthony Fitzhenry
“We call these our Qhubeka SHIFT areas. A SHIFT is a Qhubeka bicycle project that aims to distribute 5 000 bicycles per year into a specific geographic area for five years, with the aim of helping to SHIFT the entire community forward. Instead of spreading our bicycle programmes across more towns and villages, we are aiming to create more effective and lasting change within the areas in which we work.”
Moving from sourcing bicycles to manufacturing them with the help of Real Bicycle Co is a pivotal shift Qhubeka created on it’s journey. This allows the organisation to support job creation and enterprise development in Southern Africa, as well as giving it oversight and control of its full supply chain.
“All these developments have helped us to build a strong foundation for Qhubeka, as well as long-term partnerships and room to grow sustainably,” says Fitzhenry.
“…we are looking forward to celebrating many more hundreds of thousands of bicycles distributed over the coming years.”Qhubeka Founder Anthony Fitzhenry