Dear Irene. I have five minutes to make you repent of what you’ve just said and remember this story when you have doubts again. Somewhere in the world and history a handful of kids like you are putting their lives at risk daily to arrive to the school and receive an education infinitely worse than yours. Bridges near to collapse, mine fields, cliffs, racist pickets, wars that are not theirs… An adventure full of risk just to sit at their desks. Do not believe me? Look.
The faces of hate
— Why they look at that girl with those faces? What has she done?
Elizabeth Eckford was a girl of 15 when the ‘bosses’ of his country outlawed racial segregation in schools. Yes, my child, until recently, black children could not go to school with white children because their parents did not consider them equal and they wanted!… Notice that nonsense! Today there are children in your class of all countries. On September 4, 1957, when your father was not yet born, Elizabeth and eight black companions were presented at the Arkansas Little Rock school. One of the most racist and with most hatred of that country. A drooling angry crowd insulted and shouted them, preventing their entry into the school during the day and beyond. Just because they did not like the color of their skin. Neither the mediation of President Eisenhower managed to calm things down and all State schools closed for a year to avoid incidents and make a peaceful transition. Elizabeth later went to college and eventually became a professor in the same school one day they denied access. Remember that all films have a moral? Then the one in this movie, real as life itself, gives a masterly lesson to the cowards who hate only for the persons’ colour.
— What nonsense, isn’t it?
— Look how these girls go to school
— How cool, I want!
— Now look how they sit, where are their hands, their shoes…
Over 12 million Nepalese live in the vicinity of the Himalayas. The area with more mountains and higher peaks around the globe. There are almost no roads, no highways, no bus stops. A territory divided by thousand valleys and many other plentiful rivers that prevent the normal movement between towns and villages. Children use handcrafted bridges made with planks, improvised ropes and pulleys, like the adventure tyrolean traverses as you like so much but without harnesses and double security restraint. For decades, this lack of security has caused numerous accidents, many kids like you who get up at dawn just to get to school on time. Fortunately, several NGOs are currently concerned with building safe bridges and gondolas to mitigate accidents. These children would die of desire to be able to go as we go to school warm by car.
Swim while keeping your clothes dry
Today you have swimming lessons and perhaps for this you have made a face when you have woken up. Look at these children. They do not know what is a pool but they bathe every day for going to school. They have to cross a rushing river to get to school. And they do it every day. Hot or cold. Hồ Khong, a child like you from Hung primary school, in the district of Minh Hoa, Vietnam, tells us:
“The depth is about 20 meters and the current is strong, sometimes it scares. But as we want to go to school to learn to have a professional job and thus a better future, we risk to swim across the river.”
To do this they carry some large plastic bags to put their clothes and books. Nothing of great waterproof Barbie backpacks with wheels. They inflate them to make their float-guide and daily they cross the 15 meters of river. During the rainy season they can’t go to school up to one month. The flow grows too large and would be dangerous to try. The current would take them forever.
— What means that sign, Dad?
— Danger. Buried bombs.
The civil war (the war between brothers of the same country that always ends up destroying it) ended in Angola in 2002, but his ghost is still buried throughout the country in the form of mines and war engines. Those bombs putted underground by the big ones for the children accidentally step on them while playing or walking to school. Thousands of hectares of virgin and rich land remain unproductive for those ‘explosive seeds’. They are very difficult to destroy because they are so well hidden and always interfere in the life of the weakest, girls like the one in the photo, or like you. Although the rats that are used to disable mines, 80,000 accidents in 20 years become the way to school a life or death adventure, or a sentence to use wooden crutches the rest of his life. All for learning to be a better person and avoid repeating the legacy of those who refer to themselves as teachers.
The Chinese Trek
Imagine that for going to work you have to walk 200 km and cross ravines of thousands feet, clinging to the rocks and over frozen rivers. Imagine that it takes two days to arrive, wading four rivers, crossing rickety bridges and narrow roads just a few inches wide over the sharp rocks. Imagine now that you’re not Tintin or other TV superhero but a girl like you who just want to go to learn at school… Approximately 80 children risk their lives daily using the cutoff by the vertical walls of Pili, a town northern Chinese region of Xinjiang Uygur. A show that looks like a children’s TV sport contest to win a trip to Disneyworld. But it is real.
Viva la Guagua!
— These are children from a circus, Dad?
Belts fastened, child seat as European legislation, regulatory chairs, baskets with harnesses … All that we review on each trip to school is a tall tale to these children. In Pematangsiantar, Indonesia (top) or in Baghpat, India (below) no one understands that vocabulary. They rent the overcrowding variable traction vehicles in exchange for being on time for school. It may sound funny but … Can you imagine what would happen if the driver gives an abrupt halt because a dog cross in his way?
— I do not want to know
The (broken) bridge over Ciberang river
— Dad, they are going to fall!
— Fortunately, nothing happened, my child. There was a storm that broke the bridge, but the children decided they could not stop going to school for nonsense.
January 17, 2012. Torrential rains drag all kinds of weeds on the swollen river Ciberang, passing through the village Sanghiang Tanjung, in the Indonesian province of Bateng. The strength of the current hits and damages the community bridge piers (built in 2001) which links the town with the suburb of the school. The path is badly damaged but does not prevent to the children to keep crossing it from that day to follow to save 30 minutes of detour. A Reuters photographer was there to tell it.
This is not my war
— Dad, why the police are protecting themselves with a shield and that girl does not?
— She is very brave.
March 16, 2010. A girl with your age goes indolent dodging stones thrown by their Palestinian brothers against the Israeli military in its daily journey to school in the Shuafat refugee camp in the West Bank near Jerusalem. She seems not to mind the war between her brothers. Just want to go to school to show their homework. Does she seem brave, right? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become this childhood routine in a long and winding road full of obstacles for the children of this eternal war.
In search of the school through the frozen river
— Where are going those children if there are no houses anywhere?
— To a boarding school, after several days’ journey
Zanskar, India, Himalayas. A small village in the mountain paradise. Relentless in winter. 40 degrees below zero. Every year in the coldest quarter, a group of children accompanied by their parents go through three valleys to reach the boarding of Leh, the ancient capital of the kingdom of Ladakh and where they will spend the rest of the year. There are no roads, no paths. They do it across the only place possible. The frozen Zanskar river. The walk takes several days, with nights in the shelter of the ice caves of the slope. Every year some tourist dies trying to imitate the way of children from Zanskar, more educated in the folds and crevices of the treacherous ice…
— Are you still lazy to go to school today?
— Dress up and we left…