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Bicycle key in education

I have always believed the bicycle to be the saviour of the human race and here is yet another example of the good it does (with a bit of help from an amazing young man).

Child labour is a serious problem in many places, including Jharkhand in the east of India where children as young as 6 are working in dangerous conditions to mine mica, a pigment greatly valued by the cosmetics and electronics industries.

A local NGO, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood), has been working for the last few years to establish schools and create child friendly villages in the region. BBA describes a ‘child friendly village’ as one where all children are removed from work and enrolled in school; a children’s village council is elected and given official recognition by the adult village council; and civil society groups are supported to maintain a child friendly culture. One of the problems with remote areas like Jharkhand is that children often have to travel 20kms or more a day to get to and from school, so BBA has established a Bike Club which provides bicycles to children, especially girls, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to make the journey each day or to travel to other villages to educate their peers about child rights.

Bike Club got off the ground thanks to the support of Tom and Tamsin Hircock, who were 12 and 14 years old when they first raised money and visited India to hand over the bikes. Tom wrote a blog about this trip, which is a delight to read as he grapples with culture shock and the excitement of the adventure:

“We are getting ready to go to India and Nepal. We are going to India to help children over there form bike clubs. Bike clubs are where children get bikes and ride to other slave villages to tell the children that they have a right to education. We have raised about $261 dollars from my school (DVFS), $288 from Tamsin’s school (SFS) and we got $100 dollars from Marie a friend of ours that runs a pizza resturant where we eat at.”

Tom’s account is steeped in that beautiful truth that only kids have, where he can be wise beyond his years one minute, and then distracted by the nearest thing to climb the next:

“At this meeting the village discussed how to become a Child Friendly Village, that all children must be able to go to school and a part of the village parliament (Panchyat). We had talks from the chief, my dad, the children, there was lots of dancing and singing. Then I had to give a speech – I said it was a great privelage to be here and that I would go back to my school with pictures to tell my friends that we must all work together for all children of this world. Because every child has a right to Love, Play and Education.
We then went to meet the bridegroom at a local wedding for a short time. Being very careful not to eat anything just in case.
We then went to a mountain temple with amazing rock formations, which I could not sadly climb as it was a sacred temple.”

“We then met Grandma and went on a tour of Katmandu – it is very different from India – we went to the Monkey Temple.
A monkey attacked Daddy.
We then went in the hotel pool.”

Tom has continued to support BBA’s bike club program and you can catch him on You Tube here. For more about BBA, visit their website.
Providing a bike, with tool kit and spares, costs $60. For more about the issue of child labour and mica mining, visit our sister site New Melburnian.

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