These schoolchildren in southern China are so keen to get to school that they make the perilous journey on narrow wooden ladders every day, with no safety precautions. Their village in the remote Badagong mountains in Sangzhi county is surrounded by sheer drops on every side, making the school run a daily struggle. The only way out of Zhang Jiawan village, unless the children have time for a four-hour cross country detour, is via a series of rickety-looking ladders leading down to the valley below. Children climb the ladders to get to school in Hunan province, China
This little girl balances her three bags leaving her only one hand to scale the mountain to get to school. Staff at the school face a difficult commute to work on the enormous wooden ladders. Uphill struggle: Staff at the school face a difficult commute to work on the enormous wooden ladders. Their anxious parents have no choice but to let them use the ladders if they want to get an education. So when youngsters like five-year-old Liu Dan start school at the nearest town, the first thing they have to learn is how to climb.
‘In centuries past these mountains were a fortress for the villagers. The land is good and the farms thrive but it is hard to get in and out,’ said one local. Liu admitted: ‘It’s quite high but I try not to look down.’ A schoolgirl holds the ladder for others to come up safely behind her.
At home: 5-year-old Yu Xinxin, who climbs the ladders to school every day, reading before she sets off on her long morning journey. ‘My parents showed me how to do it safely and now I don’t think too much about how high it is,’ she added.
Villagers have asked local officials to supply a road down to the valley so that these children do not have to risk their lives. However, the road over the difficult terrain would cost nearly £10 million so residents are not getting their hopes up that it will happen any time soon. ‘There are fewer than 100 people living there. It would be cheaper to buy them all helicopters,’ said one.
Isolated: The village in the steep mountains where the children set off from every day to go to the valley below. (DM)