The sun has just come up, but the day remains grey and gloomy. Fields of wheat rustle in the wind beside the unpaved road, which is overgrown with weeds. Valeria, a 16-year-old schoolgirl, is walking along hand-inhand with her younger brother Nikita. They take this route to school every day – roughly three kilometres there and three kilometres back. But next year, once Valeria has left school, Nikita will have to make his own way across fields, narrow bridges and busy roads. ‘In winter, it’s already getting dark by the time we set off for home,’ says Valeria. ‘It’s cold, and a bit scary sometimes.’ There are no school buses in this part of Ukraine.
Valeria and Nikita live in Veresy, a village in central Ukraine that has now been absorbed into the municipality of Zhytomyr as part of the municipal reform process. Their secondary school is on a busy road on the outskirts of the city. It is one of four local schools taking part in Get to School Sustainably, a project being implemented by GIZ as part of the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI). The German Development Ministry is one of the partners supporting TUMI to boost sustainable urban mobility and mitigate climate change.