DepEd to provide bikes, boats to students in far-flung areas

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

CHILDREN in far-flung areas who used to walk, hike, or swim to get to school are the chosen recipients of the program "Pedals and Paddles: Bayanihang Bangka at Bisikleta" launched Wednesday by Department of Education (DepEd) in Pasig City.

Education Secretary Armin Luistro said the project aims to lessen the burden of the students in traveling to school by distributing boats and bicycles to financially challenged beneficiaries.

"We want to let every student know that we have not forgotten them and that they are not alone," the top Education official said.

He said that there were at least 100,000 children who walked long distances, wade through rivers, or swim to the next island just to be able to attend school.

In partnership with the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation (YBHF) and Bikes for the Philippines (BFP), DepEd will distribute boats and bikes to children in remote areas, Luistro said.

Manny So, YBHF board member, said the organization had already doled out more than 350 boats to different communities across the country.

"Boats, on the other hand, will be given to communities where young learners have to wade through rivers or even swim just to go to school," So said.

Moreover, So said students in some areas walk three hours to go to school, but through the boat, it would only take them 30 minutes.

"Traveling to school takes a huge toll on students, not only physically, but also mentally," Luistro said.

The YBHF had been giving out self-paddled and motorized boats in yellow and black colors to conform with international safety standards that also apply to yellow school buses, he added.

"The self-paddled boat can carry four to five children while the motorized boat can carry as many as 15 to 20," So said.

The boats will be given to the needy families and the recipient should use the boats for school and not for livelihood purposes like fishing and fetching other passengers.

Meanwhile, BFP founder Joel Uichico said the group will provide bicycles to public high school students who walk at least three kilometers to go to school.

"The priority is high school students because they are more capable of riding bikes compared to younger school children," Uichico said.

The bikes are provided to the BFP by the United States government through the collaboration of Bikes for the World, he further said.

Uichico said they would invite and interview high school students who were in need of bikes.

"This also makes sense because there are fewer public high schools compared to public elementary school and many students go to high schools far from their place of residence, usually in the town proper or in one of the barangays," he added.

Parents of the recipients should have at least P6,000/month income, living at least three kilometers away from the nearest school, and had no means of public transportation.

Qualified beneficiaries will undergo eight-day safety training.

"We train the students on how to use a bike for their safety and not to be a burden to families," Athena Mendoza, BFP board of director, said.

Likewise, children who had their mountain biking lessons took care of each other and developed sense of responsibility, Mendoza said.

"It was personal engagement that moved them (YBHF and BFP) from one steps to another," Luistro said, adding that the project might be simple but could touch many lives.

Aside from collaboration with YBHF and BFP, the DepEd would also cooperate with the local government units (LGUs) and local communities to identify schools and communities that would participate in the campaign.

YBHF and BFP, for their part, encourage donors to participate and donate. (Sunnex)

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