In China, Children from Atuler village in Sichuan province face a half-mile climb-down to go to school. Kids young as 6-years-old risk their lives walking through vine ladders called locally as ‘sky-ladders’ twice a month to attend classes.
The 800-meter cliff-face descent is the only access to the school as the village don’t have any paved roads. The kids rely only on a set of unstable ladders to make their way to the school. An adult, usually one of the parents who volunteers also help out. He secures them with a waist harness. Nonetheless, it is known that eight people have fallen from the cliff.
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The village had previously requested help from the government to improve the condition in which children have to face regularly in order to learn. But help only came when worldwide attention was raised after the state-run Beijing news published a series of photos with schoolchildren climbing the rockface.
The pictures were taken by Chen Jie; the photographer joined the climb to see for himself the struggles kids were facing to have access to a basic right. The journey up took around two hours and it so demanding that the children only came back home twice a month. Chen later told CNN:
“It was dangerous enough climbing. I can’t imagine what it would be like climbing down.
Think about it. City parents get worried when their spoiled kids aren’t happy, but what the kids here face is a formidable abyss – they could fall any second.”
The awareness created by the press also helped put some pressure on the Chinese government, so they decided to do something. After consideration and talks about possible ideas, they announced a plan and soon after delivered. The massive cliff now has a brand new steel staircase with railings down the side of the mountain.
While the solution is far from perfect if you ask me, at least now the kids from Atuler village have a more secure way to reach school. They still need to go down half-mile, but with the vine ladder gone they feel safer.