Kids in China, 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 using 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 down to the school. An adult, usually one of the parents, volunteers help out. He secures the kids with a waist harness. But, even with this measure in place eight people have fallen from the cliff in the past.
The village asked the government to improve the condition in which children have to face 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. The journey up took around two hours; 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 helped put some pressure on the Chinese government, so they decided to do something. After considerations 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 think about, 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.