GO!Durban Cycle Academy celebrates five years of youth development
This February, the GO!Durban Cycle Academy celebrates its fifth anniversary, having significantly impacted on the lives of young people through its dynamic youth development programmes.
The Academy was launched in 2016 as a joint initiative between the eThekwini Transport Authority and Green Corridors NPC, and fast made its way to being recognised as Durban's leading youth development and active mobility programme. It provides free cycling training, academic support, and life skills opportunities to youth at four sites in the heart of communities in Inanda, Chesterville, KwaDabeka, and Kwamashu.
Now the largest cycling development programme in South Africa, the Academy has 400 beneficiaries between the ages of 6 and 18 years at these sites. The primary objective is to offer recreational cycling at a grassroots level, but talented riders are recognised and selected to participate in provincial and national events based on technical ability as well as their school academic results according to the “no pass, no race” rule. The programme is the only cycling development academy in South Africa to cover all five Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)*disciplines of mountain biking, i.e. XCO (Cross-Country Olympic), Marathon, Pump Track, Downhill and Enduro.
"We can see the way the cycle academy has made a difference in the community; it's not just about cycling, it's also about helping kids to overcome their problems." - Brightson Dladla: KwaMashu Coach
As a pioneer in the discipline of pump track in South Africa, the Academy is home to three world-class Velosolutions pump tracks and has hosted two Red Bull Pump Track World Championships qualifier events (2018 and 2019) at the first track built in the province in KwaDabeka.
Setting the precedent for similar programmes across the country, the Academy won the Sports Development Programme of the Year Award at the 2019 Hollard Sport Industry Awards. The awards celebrate outstanding accomplishments in the South African sports industry, and the Academy was recognised for its holistic approach to youth development, achievements within the sport of cycling, and its positive impact on the community. In addition to improving the lives of its direct beneficiaries, the programme creates gainful employment for a number of bike park staff including coaches, bike mechanics, trail builders, tutors, cleaners and caterers.
"Awande loves riding a bike and there is a lot of improvement in her school work. It is important to have the academy in our community because it takes our kids off the street and provides a healthy lifestyle for them." - Phumelele Sibiya, Mother of Awande Sibiya (age 12) from KwaMashu Bike Park
A key focus in the last two years has been female development, and the programme made history in 2019 when it produced the first Black female riders to ever compete in the KZN Gravity series (Downhill and Enduro MTB), as well as represent the province of KwaZulu-Natal at the Spur High School MTB League national finals in October 2019.
"It takes our community to another level and makes our kids united. They have fun, learn respect, and get skills for cycling and school." Jabulile Dlamini, Mother of Sfundo Dlamini (age 14) from Inanda Bike Park
In 2019, the programme expanded to include a musical theatre academy where youth are enrolled in singing, dancing and acting classes. Every year, this academy stages an original "edutainment" production in the local communities which creates an opportunity for the youth to showcase their talents while at the same time delivering an important message to the audience.
The programme has continued to invest in the success of the youth during the Covid-19 pandemic. This included providing monthly food packs to all members, as well as adapted academic support where Mathematics and English tutors conducted Whatsapp sessions with Matric students to assist them in preparing for their final examinations.
“We began the GO!Durban Cycle Academy as a proactive way to encourage a culture of active mobility within communities who would not usually have had access to cycle training and equipment,” explains Head of the Ethekwini Transport Authority, Thami Manyathi.
“Little did we envision that this would become so much more than just a place to learn to cycle. We have seen how, through the care and efforts of the managers, coaches and teachers, these youths' lives have changed with improved academic results and cycling abilities, as well as greater involvement and commitment to the sport, and their communities. Thanks to all in the City and our private sector partners for believing in this worthwhile programme.”