Page last updated at 16:32 GMT, Wednesday, 28 April 2010 17:32 UK

Refurbished bikes help Gambian children get to school

Children with bikes - Jole Rider
The bicycles will help children get to school safely and alert

Bicycles refurbished by prison inmates are helping children in Africa get to school thanks to a Wiltshire charity.

The Jole Rider organisation has shipped its 6,000th bike to Gambia.

Some of the bikes were seized from offenders by officers from Avon and Somerset Constabulary, while others were retrieved after lying unclaimed.

They help the recipients, who often walk an average of two hours each way to school, arrive on time and get home before dark, the force said.

The bikes are revamped by inmates in seven prisons across the country.

"Huge improvement"

Jole Rider, an education charity which has an office in Bath, sent about 350 bikes, furniture, books and pens from Hullavington Airfield in Wiltshire earlier, with the help of children from Kidderminster College and St Gregory the Great School in Oxford.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary donated 100 bikes while others come from donors including individuals, recycling centres and businesses.

Charity co-founder David Swettenham explained: "The bikes enable the children to arrive at school fresh and alert rather than exhausted from a long journey.

"They also offer a safer way to travel for the girls who can be vulnerable on foot."

Babucarr Boye, permanent secretary of the charity's partner the Gambian Department of State for Basic and Secondary Education, said children's grades had "improved hugely" at schools where the bikes were in use.

"The bikes have actually helped keep the schools open by reducing the number of children dropping out due to the travel difficulties," he added.

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