According to a recent study, 77% of parents in the UK find the school run the most stressful part of their day with one third saying they have fallen out with other parents at the school gates over parking issues. Horns are beeped, bad language is muttered, and all this is probably after trying to locate missing shoes, coax children into coats and herding them into the back of cars in a desperate attempt to be on time. If this sounds remotely familiar then may I suggest you spare a thought for a group of children from Atuler village in Sichuan province who have to descend a treacherous 800 meter rock face from their remote mountain top homes, just to reach their local school.
Dubbed the world’s scariest school run, the plight of the children’s voyage went viral in May this year after dramatic pictures taken by photographer Chen Jie showed the children making the utterly terrifying journey. The photos of the group of 15 children, some as young as six, were taken during part of their 90 minute trek, climbing down unsteady vine ladders and clawing their way over bare rocks. The ladders, like the village, are hundreds of years old and were replaced only when they are discovered to be rotten.
The dangers are clearly evident enough from the photographs and the journey, which can take up to two hours, is considered so gruelling that the children have been forced to board at the school, which means only coming home to their to their families twice a month. Fortunately the photos highlighting the children’s plight prompted the local authority to vow to help and the children will soon have a better option in the form of a far more stable steel ladder.
Considering seven or eight villagers have, according to the villager chief, plunged to their deaths whilst many more had been injured due to loosing their grip, this can’t come soon enough. The $150,000 steel ladder, with handrails, and consisting of 1,500 pipes is currently being built to make the journey safer.
Not just for the children but for the other villagers who have to make the descent each week to buy food and trade their products, mostly chillies, in the surrounding markets. The photos give an incredible insight into the way of life for the villagers, their remote habitat and the sheer determination the children have earn an education. So next time the school run beckons, and you consider it to be the most stressful part of your day. Take a deep breath, count to ten because really, it’s not so bad.