Eritrean students receive 220 bicycles from World Bicycle Relief

Oct 13, 2015

Some of the students and stakeholders at the bicycle handing over ceremony in Asmara, Eritrea. Photo: © UNDP Eritrea/Mwaniki

The World Bicycle Relief (WBR) recently distributed 220 bicycles to Eritrean students on Tuesday 13th October 2015, through the MTN-Qhubeka bikes for education empowerment program. The event was organized by the National Eritrean Cycling Federation in collaboration with the Eritrean Ministry of Culture and Sport, the Ministry of Education. UNDP played a facilitating role and linking the WBR with government institutions concerned and community of beneficiaries. A number of excited students, accompanied by their parents and guardians attended the event. Also in attendance were six professional cyclists representing three cycling teams in Eritrea; MTN-Qhubeka, EriTel and Asbeco.

The MTN-Qhubeka bikes for education empowerment program in Eritrea was funded by the ninth annual 50 Mile Ride for Rwanda. The 50 Mile Ride for Rwanda is an annual fundraising ride in the United States that supports education and economic development in Rwanda and other African nations. During the event, Team Rwanda’s marketing director, Kimberly Coats said that the initiative provides an opportunity for school children to continue their education. Team Rwanda choose to work with MTN-Qhubeka because of their involvement in professional cycling. “I believe we can put thousands of bicycles in the hands of students in all the regions of Eritrea.” She said.

During the event, UN Resident / Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, in Eritrea, Ms. Christine N. Umutoni acknowledged the collaboration of all the stakeholders in making the event a reality. She thanked WBR for donating the bicycles to the school children who normally walk very long distances to go to school.    She said UNDP simply facilitated and liaised with the stakeholders; this comes from a natural instinct to champion development. “With these bicycles, students will take less time to ride to school. Cycling is also good for their health and is environment friendly.” She said.   She also recognised the role of the village committees made up of parents and teaches for the fantastic organization and ownership of the program.

A student posing with one of the professional cyclists

The beneficiaries are 50% girls and 50% boys, and one of the students said arriving at school earlier will help her get more time for studying. Most of the benefiting students have been trekking more than 10 KM to attend school. The representative on the ministry of education in Eritrea hailed the initiative saying it will bring multiple benefits.

Globally, Eritrea is known for professional cycling. In fact Eritrea’s cyclists are among the best in Africa and dominate the continent’s championships in recent years. In the Tour de France Eritrean Daniel Teklehaimanot was the first African to win the prestigious king of the mountain Jersey.

Simon Okbagergish (18) who rides with team Asbeco, says he developed interest when he was in primary school. He dreams of participating in Tour de France in three years’ time. Another professional cyclist in attendance, Adonai Kasete (18) has been cycling since he was in the 9th grade. He trains every day and hopes to represent Eritrea in cycling championships.

Hopefully this initiative could bring more bicycles in future and also develop further to allow youth centres for bicycle assembling and repair thus contribution job creation and youth empowerment.

MTN-Qhubeka bicycle handing over ceremony in Asmara

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