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  • (pleasant music)

  • Narrator: We all know it,

  • walked it every day,

  • but none of them were like these.

  • The World's Most Dangerous Ways to School.

  • Climbing,

  • freezing,

  • paddling for hours,

  • all for the chance of a better life.

  • Risky, spectacular,

  • and sometimes just simply beautiful.

  • The Most Dangerous Ways to 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 school on time

  • must go unusual ways under extreme conditions.

  • The destination, the Shree Adarsha School.

  • 650 students,

  • some of them have the most extraordinary ways to school.

  • A daily adventure trip,

  • arduously walking through mountains on foot,

  • risky hitchhiking across the highway,

  • and twice a day

  • crossing the most dangerous river of the area

  • with a ramshackle ropeway.

  • One of the most the most dangerous ways to 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 school

  • as 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, almost more 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 school by 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 school herself,

  • 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 dangerous the way to school will be today.

  • And these are the last moments Ambika and her children

  • share until evening.

  • Quickly, they slip into their school uniforms,

  • and off they go

  • on their dangerous two-hour-long way to school.

  • (pleasant music)

  • After working in the fields, Ajit is also getting ready.

  • In two hours, at 10 o'clock,

  • school starts 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.

  • Most of 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 most rapidly 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 Nepal is over 50%.

  • Those who attend school in the mountain village of Kanpur

  • walk across the mountains of the highest

  • situated country on Earth.

  • Nearly half of Nepal

  • lies 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 dangerous river 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 always stick together

  • and help each other to cope

  • with their dangerous way to 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 most experienced.

  • 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 school starts,

  • 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 school is 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 almost on a daily basis

  • and are forced to cross the dangerous river.

  • (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 school

  • and 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,

  • Nepal seems 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 dangerous enough by itself.