Bicycles for Education: the girls speak

This article was originally published in July 2010

I personally remember growing up in central Togo, dreaming and wishing that one day I could have a bike, and cannot express to you how much these bikes mean to the young students in Togo. On behalf of these students, the Alaffia Shea Butter Cooperative and the Alaffia team, I wholeheartedly thank you for your donations and volunteer time.
— Olowo-n’djo Tchala, Founder of Alaffia

For the past three years, PCC Natural Markets and its customers have helped Alaffia to collect more than 1,000 bikes, which have been distributed to disadvantaged students in Togo.

Today, only nine percent of girls in rural Togo make it through secondary school. One of the greatest contributors to this high dropout rate is the distance these girls must walk to school.

Since 2004, Alaffia has distributed more than 3,000 bicycles to students in Togo. This has helped them stay in school — a critical step for their communities to get out of poverty. Below are the profiles of two bicycle recipients and their thoughts on how it has impacted their lives.

Mawoumbé Laba

Mawoumbé Laba

Mawoumbé is a 10th grade student at the Komah General High School, Sokodé, Togo. Mawoumbé received a bicycle in 2006. Age 14, she is the oldest child in a family of eight. Her parents are farmers, raising food and pigs for the local markets. The family lives in the small village of Labidè. Mawoumbé is a very dedicated student and aspires to be a medical doctor.

In her words …

“Thanks to my bicycle, I am no longer late for class and can avoid extreme weather like thunderstorms and the intense heat of the dry season — which used to affect my health. In the past, I was frequently tardy due to the long distance to school. Also, I can come home each day to eat lunch with my family and return to school for the afternoon session.

Because I have a bicycle, I can meet my classmates after school to form study groups. In a poor family with many children, I am extremely grateful for the bicycle and thank Alaffia very much.”

Noëline Tam

Noëline Tam

Noëline is a 13-year-old 9th grade student at Kolowarè General High School in Sokodé, Togo. She received her bicycle from Alaffia in 2009. Noëline and her 10 siblings live with their parents in the village of Nigbaoudé II. Her parents are rice farmers and shea nut collectors. Noëline is planning to enter midwifery school when she finishes high school.

In her words …

“Since I received my bicycle from Alaffia, I am happy because I can get to school on time every day. I am able to use my bicycle to conduct errands and chores on the way to school, such as delivering lunch to my father in his fields. Thanks to my bicycle, I can avoid certain dangers, such as snakes and scorpions that always worried me when I walked to school.

“The bicycle also helps my health in the dry season, because now I don’t have to walk in the intense sun for a long time. This gift from Alaffia has created a change in my family and my village. I can see that the other young people are motivated to go to school.”

Soumeya Tchassama

Soumeya Tchassama

Soumeya is a second-year student at the Sokodé Modern Junior College. She received her bicycle from Alaffia in 2008.

Soumeya is 19; she is the oldest girl in a family of 10 children. Her parents are farmers. The family income is very small, and her parents can only send six of their children to school, including Soumeya. Soumeya lives with her family in Tchalanidè.

Due to the important health problems in her village, Soumeya wants to study to become a pharmacist after she graduates next year.

In her words …

“Since I received the bicycle from Alaffia, I was able to get to school on time and have extra time to meet and study with my friends after school. I also find the bicycle useful to help complete my chores quickly, such as running errands to the market to buy food for dinner, and still have time to study.

“Thanks to the bicycle, I can avoid heavy rains and strong sun while traveling to school. When other students see that I have received a bicycle from Alaffia to stay in school, they are also motivated to study hard so that they, too, may be chosen to have a bike.”

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