In my last blog, I discussed the hardship that some Chinese children have on their journey to school. As I was searching for a follow up to that story, I happened upon a documentary that looked intriguing. My husband and I watched it and I must say that I was deeply touched by the brave children that were featured. Their ventures to school are a far cry from many, including myself. Let’s take a look at the drastic differences as I share my own (travel to school) experiences:
Caitlin, United States; 7 miles, 10-15 minutes. I had the ability to ride a school bus that stopped right in front of the house. In later years, I was permitted to drive my own car to and from school.
Caitlin’s Children, United States; 9 miles, 15 minutes. Parents drove each way to and from school for three years, mostly due to avoiding the lengthy bus ride which was 50 minutes each way. Current circumstances; less than 1 mile, 5 minutes. Carpooling is split with another family in the mornings and children ride the bus home in the evening.
Needless to say, my family has been blessed with easy access to education. Others…not so much. Let’s dive a bit deeper into the documentary that I had stumbled upon. It’s entitled, “On the Way to School.” It was made with the support of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and the non-governmental organization Aide et Action. French director Pascal Plisson was inspired to create the film while in Kenya, as he witnessed three children running to school on a blistering hot day. He stated, “I’ve been travelling around the world for a long time, seeing kids struggling to get to school in a lot of countries. Some walk for miles. Others scale mountain paths or cross dangerous bridges. Many take boats or ride animals to reach their classrooms. It was very important to do this movie because I could show very simply how kids are struggling to go to school and the motivation they have.”
The documentary is a collaboration of inspiring stories that highlight four young children from different parts of the world, who embark on incredible journeys just to get to school. The film begins with an introduction of each child by name, age, and location. It then describes the distance they travel and the length of time it takes to complete their journey to school. I will also include some details about their journey.
Samuel, 11, India; over 2 miles, 1 hour & 15 minutes. Samuel is pushed in a flimsy, makeshift wheelchair by his two brothers, Gabriel and Emmanuel. They travel on sandy (sometimes rocky) paths and even through a shallow body of water to their school. He hopes to become a doctor.
Zahira, 12, Morocco; almost 14 miles, 4 hours. Zahira walks and hitchhikes with a few of her classmates through the Atlas Mountains. At one point on her journey (in the film), she trades a local a live chicken for some food. She wants to be a doctor.
Jackson, 10, Kenya; 9 miles, 2 hours. Jackson wakes up at 5:30 a.m. and dodges armed gangs and elephants as he runs to school with his six-year-old sister, Salome. Plisson made a statement regarding the trip during the taping, “We had dangers from buffalo, we saw some lions from afar; there were even bandits.” Jackson heeds his father’s advice, “If the elephants see you, they will kill you! Run away!” At one point in the film, he instructs his sister, “We have to go that way today” due to unwanted visitors blocking their usual path. He dreams of becoming a pilot.
Carlito, 11, Argentina; 11 miles, 1 hour & 30 minutes. Carlito and his sister, Micaela ride horseback through scenic Patagonian vistas. He wants to become a vet.
It’s undeniable that each of these kids is remarkable for many reasons. The physical demands that they face on their journey to school are extremely unforgiving and tenacious. The elements that they face are harsh and dangerous, yet their determination and perseverance brings them hope that an education will lead to a better life.
Oscar-winning actor-director Forest Whitaker said of the film, “As we watch the different paths these children take to go to school, their transformative journeys become ours and we are reminded that education is a treasure that our families and communities nurture within us, sometimes at a great sacrifice because they do trust that the future can be a better place than the present.“
A source stated that about 50 stories were collected for this project and although only four were chosen for On The Way To School, plenty more remain for a future project. Plisson states, “From Botswana, Australia, Morocco, all over. With these, we’re going to make a series for TV.” Another source stated that 10 of these stories will be featured on a TV Series in France. Plisson hopes all of this attention will bring to light the crisis and individual struggles that so many children endure in order to attend school. “When we show this movie in Kenya, for example, they (government ministers) realize that they have a lot of work to do for a kid like Jackson to access school, not to have to run and risk his life every morning and every night. So they will build boarding schools.”