A group of Mumbaikars started collecting used cycles to give these tribal kids living in and around Aarey Colony, Dahanu and Asangaon, after they noticed how many students were dropping out of school with limited means of transport.

For hundreds of kids living in tribal pockets in Aarey Colony, Dahanu and Asangaon, going to school is no walk in the park – they face a 4 to 5-km trek every day just to get to the nearest district school. But thanks to a group of Good Samaritans who are collecting used bicycles to give to these children, many of them can now breathe a sigh of relief. A group of 45-odd youths, known as Janta Jagruti Manch, has been volunteering in tribal pockets located in and around Thane and Mumbai, working to improve health, employment and education. It was during a visit to schools in Dahanu that some of the volunteers found out about the hardship faced by the school kids.

“When we asked why there were such few students going to school, the teachers told us that the children stop attending after a point because they have to walk at least 4-5 km every day to reach the school. Frequency of the buses is too less and they can’t afford any other means of transport, which is why the drop rate is so high in secondary schools,” said Kamlesh S, a web designer who heads the initiative.

While these children have all attended primary schools, which are not so far away, they are dependant on the district schools for secondary education and have to walk long distances to get there. This is why, even though primary schools have a good strength of students, the numbers are far worse when it comes to secondary schools. The group then located several such schools in different localities of Aarey Colony, Dahanu and Asangaon, where the children were facing similar issues. Taking note of this issue, the group decided to collect used and repairable bicycles for the students. This would not only reduce the burden on the kids, but would also give them a reason to look forward to school. “When we interacted with the parents and children, we realised there is a lack of intent or interest to go to school. Added to this, lack of means of travel acts as a trigger for them to drop out of school,” said Niranjan Ahir, another volunteer. He added, “Cycles will give these kids a new reason to go to school every day. For them, riding a cycle is a luxury. It will not only ensure that they don’t drop out, but it will give them a reason to be excited about school. On a brighter note, it will keep them healthy as well.” The volunteers set the wheels in motion through word of mouth, social media and personal visits to different residential societies, and have already collected nearly 60 bikes within the past fortnight. They intend to continue the drive till August 30, by which time they hope to have at least 200 bikes to give to the children. Through local volunteers and with the help of the teachers, the group even conducted a survey and made a database of over 100 students from three district secondary schools who have been facing maximum difficulty, often having to walk even more than 5 km. These students will be handed the cycles first, to ensure that none of them drop out of school. The remaining bikes will then be given to kids based on their needs. “We are approaching different societies where cycles are simply gathering dust since the kids there have outgrown them and don’t ride the bikes anymore. Apart from contributing cycles, many people have also come forward to pay for the maintenance expenses of the bikes, all of which need a little repair work. The rest of the expenses will also be paid for by way of donations,” added Kamlesh.