Remember the first time you got onto a bicycle? The fear and uncertainty. The shaky start, while your grown-up nervously flit behind you and others cheered, wincing if you toppled then encouraging you to try again. But, then remember the feeling of finally riding off, with whoops behind you? The freedom! The endless possibility. We were privileged to bring a bit of that magic to Mavivane Primary, recently.

It is a spritely morning in Shakaville, a village just a few minutes outside KwaDukuza (Stanger). The gates of Mavivane Primary School swing open and the security guard gives us a friendly wave as we enter the school. Little voices titter, and a classroom full of eyes peer inquisitively around their teacher.

Environmental Manager, Ayanda Duma, is greeted warmly by Ningi Gumede, the school’s stylish principal, whom she affectionately calls “Mam’Ningi”. The two embrace as they walk into the school’s colourful library to discuss the morning’s events.

“My school,” Ningi’s eyes shine. “This is happening at my school!” She excitedly waves to parents, as they begin walking into the assembly area. By this point, the effervescent Ian Wilson and his crew from Impact Cycling have arrived, clad in bright red shirts and carrying little…bicycles!

As the parents sit down, Ayanda and Ningi begin to explain the programme they are launching. The two are partners in the Citizen Leader Lab’s newly launched Leaders for Education programme (formerly Partners for Possibility), and have formed a cherished relationship. As their partnership developed, Ayanda thought of introducing Ian to the school.

“Ian, as residents would remember, and his company Single Track Minded, run the Glide and Ride programme every week in Simbithi. They have been our partners for years,” Ayanda explains. “Recently, he was involved in upgrading our trails to include our avid cyclists.”

Ian became a friend of PfP when he began working with Mshwati Primary School around circle one. “I knew I wanted to do something to give back,” he explains, his eyes brightening as he looks to the parents, with Ayanda translating. “So, I brought the skills I know best: riding a bike.”

Impact Cycle, as Ian named it, is an initiative where he brings a group of coaches to an underprivileged school armed with training bicycles, helmets and energy by the dozen. “The essence is simple: if a learner attends school from Monday to Thursday, they are rewarded by riding on Friday,” Ian explains. “We do not charge. For me, this is a way of giving back and empowering without creating a ‘hand-out’ mentality.”

The programme worked so well at Mshwati Primary that, for the first time in the school’s history, an entire grade progressed at the end of the year. Absenteeism improved by 90%.

“This is not just about teaching children to ride a bike,” Ian explained. “Cycling activates core muscles. If we train these muscles, children can sit up straight and concentrate for longer in class. If they fall off the bike, for example, we encourage and encourage bravery immediately.”

It is clear that Ayanda’s love for the school runs deep, as she readily plays games with the learners, inspires them with short talks and chats to parents. “The bicycle is the tool, but we are trying to do something significant in this community. Looking at the parents, today, we see hope and excitement; and that is the cornerstone of community work.”

Ningi thanked Simbithi and Ian for visiting, and looked forward to the impact the programme would make.

Watch a wrap-up of Ayanda and Ningi’s journey, here: