HOD for Education in KZN, Dr Enock Nzama, gives Kwenana Zikalala a few “tips” on how to ride a bike. Kwenana, from Ladysmith, says he will get more time to study for school now that he has been given the bicycle as part of an Eskom social investment programme. Picture: DOCTOR NGCOBO/ANA

It might be nothing more than two wheels attached to a metal frame, but Kwenana Zikalala says his new bicycle is going to change his life.

For more than 15 years, the now 18-year-old has had to walk eight kilometres to school every morning and eight kilometres back home every evening.

But now the trip that took him an hour-and-a-half on foot, is going to take him just 15 minutes on his new bicycle.

Kwenana was one of 975 pupils, from 15 schools in the uThukela district of KwaZulu Natal, to whom Eskom donated bicycles yesterday.

These pupils all stay between 6 and 10km from school - long enough to make the trip a gruelling one by foot, but too close for them to qualify for the already severely strained government scholar transport programme.

With his new bicycle, Kwenana will not arrive at school dripping in sweat in the height of summer, when the mercury rises to around 40ºC in his home town of Ladysmith.

Nor will he be as exposed to the early morning frost and snow, when the temperature drops dramatically in winter.

He is going to be able to sleep in a little later and, more importantly, get  home a little earlier.

Asked what he was going to do with the extra time, Kwenana did not hesitate.

"Study," he replied. "I want to become a soldier, I like hard work.”

Eskom’s acting chief executive, Abram Masango, said the power giant had recently donated a total of R3 million worth of bicycles to needy children.

"All in all, we have donated a total of 1 140 - including these 975," he said.

Eskom is involved in various corporate social investment initiatives in the area around its Ingula Power Station.

“We've spent close to R100 million here," Masango said, "We've also built a science laboratory and a computer laboratory.”

Head of Department for Education in KZN, Dr Enock Nzama, said children who had to walk to school, struggled to keep up with their classmates because they were often several hours late.

"This is going to help us and it's going to help them," he said.