Most Dangerous Ways To School | NEPAL | Free Documentary
(pleasant music) Narrator: We all know it, walked it every day, but none of them were like these. The World's
freezing, paddling for hours, all for the chance of a better life. Risky, spectacular, and sometimes just simply beautiful. The
School. (peaceful music)
Nepal, the highest country on Earth, runs through mountain ranges, sometimes reaching heights of more than 4,000 meters above sea level. The mountain village Kanpur in the province of Bagmati, whoever wants to make it to
schoolon time must go unusual
waysunder extreme conditions. The destination, the Shree Adarsha
School. 650 students, some of them have the
school. A daily adventure trip, arduously walking through mountains on foot, risky hitchhiking across the highway, and twice a day crossing the
dangerousriver of the area with a ramshackle ropeway. One of the
school, all for one goal, a better life. (soft music) Six o'clock, daybreak, another normal day in the
Nepalese mountains dawns. The
schoolboy Ajit has to wake up quickly because before he is allowed to head off to
school, he must lend a hand in the fields. His father, Hari, needs every single helping hand. Two hours of early work from six to 8 a.m., for Ajit, it is quite natural. But nothing to say against a bit of daydreaming. -: When I grow up, I want to do more than just work on the farm. I want to explore the world....
(light music) Narrator: Ajit's father has never attended
school. He knows, just like all the other parents living in the mountains, education is the key for his son's future. Each day the parents in the mountain village Kanpur prepare their little ones for their great adventure. The same scene, 400 meters down the mountain. Here, little Kabita works her way through her early morning spit bath with the help of her mother. Kabita is not more than four years old. Mother Nirmala has decided to send her to
schoolas early as possible. Nirmala would love to have her daughter by her side the whole day, but she believes that without
schooling Kabita would have no chance finding a job and, al
mostmore important, in finding a husband. That's why she accepts that her four-year-old daughter takes on the long way to
school, more than six kilometers. Together, they practice every morning before
school, do Kabita's homework, and learn the
Nepalese alphabet. (speaks in foreign language) (engaging music) A bit further done in the village, Ambika's farm awakes. Ambika is happy that her seven-year-old, Asmita, does not have to go to
schoolby herself. Fortunately, she has two other children who also attend
school, eight year-old Amit and six-year-old Anita. Until recently, the mother brought the children to
schoolherself, but the work required in the farm suffered for it. That's why a couple of days ago, her son and her daughter started to go on their own. Especially in...
the morning, they are all a bit tensed. No one knows how
dangerousthe way to
schoolwill be today. And these are the last moments Ambika and her children share until evening. Quickly, they slip into their
schooluniforms, and off they go on their
dangeroustwo-hour-long way to
school. (pleasant music) After working in the fields, Ajit is also getting ready. In two hours, at 10 o'clock,
schoolstarts down in the valley on the other side of the river. Not bad going such a long way for a dream. -: When I grow up, I want to become a pilot. It must be great to be a pilot and fly around the world. (speaks in foreign language) Narrator: Together with his sister Sapana, Ajit hits the road, leaving behind a worried family.
Mostof all, a mother who knows all too well about this way to
school. -: Every day I'm afraid to send my children off to
school. Everybody in my family has gotten hurt on the way down to the valley. My son, my daughter, myself, even my husband hurt himself. Ajit: Often, I'm afraid I might slip and hurt myself. I'm also afraid of wild animals like jackals, monkeys, or tigers. But I really want to go to
school. (pleasing music) Narrator: Unlike
mostrapidly growing Asian countries, in
Nepal, 80% of the inhabitants live outside of big cities. Just about 2/3 of the children attend
school. The others, like the 12-year-old Ganesh who must stay behind today, must help in the fields in order to secure the harvest. The illiteracy rate in
Nepalis over 50%....
Those who attend
schoolin the mountain village of Kanpur walk across the mountains of the highest situated country on Earth. Nearly half of
Nepallies more than 4,000 meters above sea level. In order to reach their destination, Ajit and Sapana have to go down to the city at the foot of the mountains. And for that, they have to cross the
dangerousriver Trishuli which winds through the entire valley. The Trishuli River comes from the Himalaya mountains. It is 60 meters wide. And at this time of year, the time of the monsoon, it is especially wild. The next bridge, miles away. There is only one way to the other side for the pupils, the so-called tuin, a basket on two old wire cables. Rusty and inspiring little confidence, nobody knows how long this construction will last. Many accidents have happened here. A number of students have fallen in the river while trying to reach the other side. Some nearly drowned. -: I'd like to learn how to swim, but the river is so wild. I never dared trying. My biggest fear is that the river could carry me away with it. Narrator: On some days, the weather intensifies Ajit's fears. In times of the monsoon, sudden rain showers make the water level rise dramatically. But today, the students are lucky. (speaks in foreign language) Kabita: Mommy, bye. Nirmala: Buh-bye. (speaks in foreign language) Narrator: At each goodbye, there is a touch of fear. But there is no alternative. Besides, the children from Kanpur al
waysstick together and help...
each other to cope with their
school. A bit further down at the foot of the mountain village, mother Ambika also sends her children off. Amit, the eldest, is supposed to lead the others safely. He is the
mostexperienced. But still, every morning saying goodbye to her children costs Ambika a lot of strength. (serene music) -: Every day when my children head off to
school, it's a terrible moment. I'm afraid that they might try to swim in the river. I often wonder on which side of the river that they might be on at any given moment. Have they managed to reach the other side? There's so much that could happen to them. Narrator: 1 1/2 hours before
schoolstarts, from all over the Kanpur village, the children gather together at the foot of the mountain. They are on their way to
school, and the
schoolis in the city. Today, it's normal. But just 50 years ago, the village was completely self-sufficient. Only if there was a lack of salt would someone, twice a year, head off to refill the stock. Today, the children go to the city al
moston a daily basis and are forced to cross the
dangerousriver. (troubled music) A village in distress is left behind. Worries unite the families in Kanpur more than anything else. -: We simply don't have the time to bring our children across the river every day. We have to take care of the fields. But we're worried every day, afraid they might hurt themselves crossing the river. Narrator: The village community...
Kanpur is spread across 18 farms on (mumbles) mountain. The families live in a very remote area. And every mother fears the moment when her child is old enough to go to
schooland has to cross the Trishuli River. At nine o'clock, the children arrive at the so-called tuin. The name can be translated into, "The way on the rope." But there is a problem. The basket is on the other side of the river. 60 meters away, out of reach for the children. The river Trishuli, which can only be crossed by two rusty ropes, separates the region in two halves at this point. On the other side,
Nepalseems like a whole different world, with cars, buses, and shops. But without the basket, the children stand no chance to reach it. Sometimes the students from Kanpur wait for up to three hours. If no one comes, they have no other choice but to return home. -: I am sad when we have to go back. The other children learn more. I keep getting worse and worse. (light music) Narrator: The only hope the children have is that someone comes in brings them the basket. -: Often, the teachers yell at us when we are late. Sometimes they really get very angry. Sometimes they hit our hands with a stick or pull our hair if we're late. Narrator: After 20 minutes, a village farmer arrives at the riverside. He, too, has to cross in order to sell his cucumbers and his goat. A stroke of luck for the children. Because farmer Pramod is in a hurry, he can't wait for someone to crossover with the basket....
The market closes in just under two hours. Therefore, he crosses the river with a very special method. A device the villagers called kirikiri, a pulley and a rope. This is how he wants to reach the other side in order to collect the basket for the children and himself. -: The children do not have this pulley and they're simply not strong enough. Only us farmers can cross like this if the basket is on the other side. Nearly none of the children can swim. If they fall into the river, they die. (delightful music) Narrator: When crossing the river on the rope, the farmer Pramod is not only in danger of drowning, the rusty old steel rope is
dangerousenough by itself. With each grasp, tiny rusty splinters of wire bore their way into his hands. None of the villagers is vaccinated against tetanus. Many have been down with fever and have nearly died. They used to be another way to cross the river, a sort of a ferry. But the current would carry the boat off course again and again, and often made it impossible to cross. That's why the villagers of Kanpur built the tuin eight years ago. But now it has become rusty and the cables brittle. Pramod knows that
schoolin town starts in less an hour, so he lets the children use the basket first. In order to get all of them across, Ajit and his friends have to cross the river twice fully occupied. If they hurry, they can make it to
schoolon time. But only if nothing else goes wrong. (pleasant music) The weather must play along. And now...
of all times, it doesn't. Rain. When it rains down over Kanpur, it can quickly become unpleasant down at the river. The river Trishuli, rapid by nature, gathers even more speed. And with the rain, the students find it extremely difficult to manage the slippery wire rope. Everyone in the village is worried about crossing the river. Ajit's father, too. He carries a special responsibility because it was he who built the construction. -: When I moved here, I would never have thought the river might pose such a problem, nor that my children would have to use the tuin one day. It was my idea to build it. I simply thought, "If we had a rope crossing the river, "we could reach the other side." Narrator: So Ajit's father and other villagers built the tuin, the way on the rope, to overcome the isolation, unsuspecting that one day they would send their own children to the other side so that they could attend
school. Head of the family, Hari, and his wife know about the dangers. Many get badly hurt trying to cross the river. It happened even to Hari himself, the builder of the tuin, with nearly fatal consequences. Three years ago, his ring finger got squashed during the crossing. It got caught between rope and pulley. He al
mostdied from the resulting infection. -: For many months, I was unable to work in the fields. My family tried to take up the job, but it was impossible for them. I'm the head of the family, it is my job. When I was unable to plow the...
fields and harvest the rice, it was very tough on the whole family. Narrator: In the village, and for the children, the river's and the tuin's imminent danger is omnipresent. (appealing music) Ajit and his fellow students are in a hurry. They all want to reach the other side as quickly as possible. But the basket is much too heavy. They will have to go several times. There are strict rules among the students. The younger ones are allowed to stay below in the basket. The elder ones have to climb on the ropes and push. Today, it's Ajit's and Rabindra's turn. -: Rabindra has fallen once before. You really gave to keep an eye on him. He runs fast and doesn't pay attention. That often makes it difficult for me. Narrator: Rabindra is Ajit's best friend. A year ago, he survived a tumble from the tuin by only a close shave. -: I was so shocked when we ran across the river on the rope. I slipped off, couldn't hang on, and directly fell into the river. I was sure I would not survive. Narrator: It was luck in the circumstances since Rabindra is one of the few students who know how to swim. For
mostothers, a fall into the river would have been fatal. Ajit and Rabindra climb onto the ropes to bring the basket to the other side. Towards the middle of the river, the rope sags. And from then onwards, it's push the basket. (Rabindra pushes strenuously) The tuin, on the one hand, the only chance to arrive at
schoolon time, on the other hand, a...
life-threatening danger for the children. And time is running out. Because Ajit and his friends are still far from the other side, not to mention nowhere near the
school. By now, the eight-year-old tuin is in quite a tilted position. Over the years, the ropes have loosened little by little, and with every passage, have lost their balance a bit more. Until recently, the tuin had a third rope in the middle. It used to be easy to push the basket that way. And many used it to pull themselves closer to the other side on the last meters. But then it ripped apart. Since then Ajit and his friends have to cope with two ropes only. And they keep hoping they won't tear apart. At least, the younger students have made it to the other side this morning. For years, students and parents have been hoping the government would build a bridge. But in truth, everybody in the village believes that until someone has died on the tuin nothing will happen. -: If I could choose, I'd rather have a bridge than become a pilot. Narrator: Ajit's dream is to leave home and get to know the world. He would give it up for a bridge. For the moment there is none. So it's back by a tuin to get the remaining students. After all,
schoolstarts in half an hour. Every morning, Ajit's teacher, Bhawani Sharma, prepares her classes at the Shree Adarsha
School. She, too, has little hope that in the near future the situation for the students from Kanpur will change. -: We have a clear system here in...
Nepal. If the tuin rips apart and someone dies, then the government will look to it that a bridge is built, not beforehand. There already has been a serious accident on Ajit's tuin. One of our students fell off the tuin and hurt her head. She was seriously injured, but survived. And nothing happened. There used to be a second tuin close by. Today, there is a bridge. Why? Because the student fell and died. That's how it is. Only if someone dies will something happen. Narrator: Bhawani Sharma has often tried to bring attention to the problem. But her petitions were left unheard. Probably the tuin affects too few people. Only 12 of the 650 students have to cross the river. And so all the teacher can do is hope that everyone from the village Kanpur arrives at
schooling is important, especially for them. -: There are great differences between students from this side of the river and those from the other side. The children here don't have much to worry about and often their families are well-off. Their way to
schoolis much easier. That's a big difference. The students from the other side simply get much poorer results. Narrator: 25 minutes until
schoolstarts. Still, not every student has made it across the river. Su-dit-sha and Amit are waiting on the other side. Both students are in fifth grade. High time to push the tuin themselves. This morning will be the last one where they climb into the basket. After
school, on their way back, they...
will, for the first time in their life, climb on the basket. And then they will be the ones pushing the younger students across. -: Ones we are able to cross the river on our own, we are adults. Narrator: For the students, it is more than just a compulsory task to ride the tuin, it is a major step in their lives, an initiation into the adult world which fills them with pride and worry. The dance on the rope, that's how the students call the walk on the ropes of the tuin. While the youngest are awaiting the ritual a little anxiously, the elder ones fulfill their task on the rope ostensibly casual and sly. As he steps off, he immediately thinks with mixed feelings that on his return it will be his first time to operate the tuin. -: Right now, I'm not thinking about being proud of riding the tuin, I'm just scared. Narrator: The children have all arrived safely, and are on their way to the highway. There are still quite a few miles ahead of them before they arrive at
school. Ajit has to go back one more time. The student Amit and, more importantly, Pramod the farmer and his goat are still on the other side. The solidarity within the village of Kanpur is strong. After all, sooner or later, everyone relies on the other. And so sometimes even livestock transportation is a part of one of the
school. Soon after, all have arrived safely. Ajit must continue. Just a few meters up the hill, and next difficult stage of their way to
them. They have to hitchhike on the highway. The Prithvi Highway is the
mostimportant highway in Western
Nepal. The whole infrastructure and the wealth balance in the region has changed since it was built 40 years ago. But the accident rate has risen too. There are al
waysaccidents on the Prithvi Highway. One reason being, the many ramshackle trucks.
Schoolbegins in a few minutes. The children have no choice but to wait and hope someone will give them a lift. Today the students are lucky. After 10 minutes, an ambulance driver stops and gives Ajit and his friends a lift. (delightful music) He takes the students to Gajuri which is only a 10-minute ride by car. Gajuri is the largest town in the region with 7,000 inhabitants. Five to 10, just in time, they all arrive at their destination. 650 students from all over the area flock to
school. Many of them live near the
schoolgrounds. While those only need to walk for two to three minutes, Ajit and his friends travel for more than two hours. Before the start of the lessons, 10 o'clock sharp, the students line up (bell rings) for roll call. -: One, two, three, four, five. One, two, three, four, five. Four, five. Narrator: Every morning, six days a week, five minutes of gymnastics. -: Nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16. Narrator: Then the children sing the
Nepalese national anthem. (children singing) A long day lies ahead of the children. Eight
schoolperiods until 4 p.m. While
moststudents know each other, because nearly all of...
them come from Gajuri, Ajit and his friends are sort of the outsiders from the mountains. On top of that, they are nearly all in different classes. In the class of teacher Sharma, Ajit, too, is an outsider. The only thing his classmates know about him is that he has a
school. -: I heard that some students have to cross the river, but I myself have never went on a ride with a tuin. -: Ajit comes here with the tuin. I have never even seen it. (speaks in foreign language) Narrator: The students of the Shree Adarsha
Schoolregularly receive a so-called class serial number. It shows who is the best and who is the worst student. Ajit is number 39. One of the last in the whole class. -: The students from the other side are just no good at concentrating. Their mind is weakened by the daily struggle. When they are in
school, they only think of their way back home. Hitchhiking, across the tuin, a long walk ahead still, all of them, Ajit, his sister, and the others, they just don't stand a chance of being good students. Narrator: Plus their isolation within the
schoolclass. No girlfriend, no buddies to keep Ajit company in class. The reason, apart from
school, there are no points of contact. So the 30-minute lunch break is the only opportunity to spend some time with his friends. The majority of students eat in town. Ajit cannot afford this. The
schoolcanteen offers a basic meal for little money. -: I don't know anyone here. At least I get to spend the lunch...
break with my friend. Narrator: For 15 rupees, about 20 U.S. cents, Ajit and Rabindra receive a small meal. A lot of money for their families, but they know that the children need it. (delightful music) Straight afterwards, lessons start again. Another four hours of
school. Science, in order to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot, Ajit should especially pay attention in this subject. But he lacks concentration and is easily distracted. His thoughts are not on
school, but revolve around his way home. It's late in the afternoon when Ajit and the other students from Kanpur set off on their way back to the river. It will be up to Amit now to prove his ability on the wire rope and bring his friends to the other side safely. The students from Kanpur are waiting at the entrance to the village, the meeting point at which the cars drive at walking speed. Chances to catch a lift are highest here. Today, they have to wait for 30 minutes until a truck driver pities them and lets Ajit and his friends jump in. As often, the trip is quite
dangerous. The trucks are the biggest hazard on the highway since the drivers are often pressed for time and have to hurry to get to their destination. But for the children, they are the only means of transportation. (driver blows horn) (driver blows horn) (driver blows horn) (driver blows horn) (driver blows horn) (driver blows horn) (driver blows horn) Done. The students leave the highway behind, the first stage on their way home. (light music)...
Luckily, the morning rainfall has stopped. The river is relatively peaceful. The ropes of the tuin dry. Optimal conditions to pass the test for those who haven't danced on the rope yet. -: I only dare pulling the basket, even if I hurt myself at the rope doing it. We have to do it slowly, otherwise it'll be too
dangerous. I'm too scared to walk on the rope in case I fall and drown. Narrator: It's a big moment for Su-dit-sha. The step from child to adulthood. For the first time, together with her friends, she will bring the tuin to the other side. The experienced children pass on their knowledge to the next tuin generation and teach them to tread properly and to al
wayskeep up a steady pace. On one of the
school, the students at all times have to sharpen their senses. Also those newcomers on top of the rope. -: One false step and I could drown. I would tumble into the river just like Rabindra. Narrator: Unlike Rabindra, Amit hasn't yet learned how to swim. Su-dit-sha below, Amit on top, both have due respect. Amit only dares to use one foot pushing the tuin. That's safer but much slower and more tiring for the others. Su-dit-sha is also afraid. She is al
mostbound to hurt her fingers at the rusty and brittle rope. Towards the end, the tuin becomes steeper and steeper. The children need more and more strength to pull. The rope's wire bristles cut deeper and deeper. The students pull themselves to the riverbank with the last of...
their strength. The crossing takes 15 minutes this time. Three times as long as normally. But the ritual is finally overcome. They went through their baptism of fire even if it hurt. A big step taken. But this also means that they will have to climb up on the tuin again and again and expose themselves to the danger. Together with his sister, Ajit sets off on his way back up the mountains. Exhausted by a long day, their path ascends steeply on the way to house and farm. And it takes even longer than in the morning. More than an hour. They arrive after 6 p.m. Ajit and his sister have been on their feet for more than 12 hours. (speaks in foreign language) -: Every day I'm happy when my children arrive back home safely. But I do know if we had a bridge crossing the river, they would beam with joy. Every night I look into their eyes and I can see that they are so tired. But I am happy that they are here. Narrator: Ajit would like to do his homework, but he is too exhausted. (lighthearted music) The family has dinner together, happy both children have made it unscathed through this day as well. And Ajit remembers his dream. His dream that one day he may become a pilot to see the world. -: If we had a bridge, going to
schoolwould be so much easier. I could do my homework and then become a pilot and fly around the world. Narrator: Ajit's day comes to an end with this hope. He needs his sleep for tomorrow now. Then Ajit and his friends will once more get up with the first...
rays of sunshine and head off on one of the world's