Tiptoeing along perilous cliffside trails, ascending rickety bamboo ladders, trekking across frozen Himalayan passes — even sliding over a canyon on a zipline.
Those are some of the unconventional, and dangerous, ways that kids get to school every single day.
Recognizing the importance of education, families go to great lengths to make sure their kids can get to class.
The story of an Indian vegetable vendor who spent two years carving a road through rugged terrain to help his children get to school inspired people around the world to reflect on the importance of education.
His children’s six-hour round-trip commute was just one example of the lengths to which children and families will go to get an education.
Freezing weather and challenging terrain present physical barriers that families can overcome through determination, courage, and a reliable mode of transportation, but more insidious obstacles, like poverty, discrimination, and human trafficking, often pose a greater challenge to children. These issues force kids to earn money, stay home, or even raise their own families instead of staying in school.
Worldwide, about 263 million kids are out of school, UNESCO reports. That total includes 61 million children between ages 6 and 11, 60 million children between ages 12 and 14, and 142 million children between ages 15 and 17.
Without an adequate education, children struggle to read, use online resources, secure jobs that pay a living wage, and access the opportunities available to their wealthier, better-educated peers.
That’s why Global Citizen campaigns on ensuring access to education for children around the world. You can take action here.
These seven heroic ways that kids get to school demonstrate the power of education.
1/ Ziplining Over a Canyon
For families living atop an isolated mountain high above the Rio Negro River in Colombia’s rainforest, steel cables provide the most efficient route to reach other communities. The zipline phenomena traces back centuries. Natives used to rely on hemp ropes to journey across the canyon.
While soaring through the air on their way to school, ziplining students can reach speeds up to 40 mph. Sounds like the foundation of a good physics lesson.
2/ Scaling Treacherous Cliffs
There are no buses for school kids amid the mountains of China’s Sichuan Province. There aren’t even roads. Instead, students scrambled up a series of rickety wooden ladders propped against sheer cliffs. After photos of children making the perilous trip went viral last year, the Chinese government funded the construction of steel ladders secured to the mountainside.
Read More: 4 Ways School Can Literally Save Lives
3/ Walking a Tightrope
For most kids, a balancing act means managing schoolwork, completing household chores, and maintaining a social life. But in a remote community in Indonesia, kids literally performed a balancing act every time they went to and from school. The children walked on tightropes to cross a river that separated them from class after a flood washed away their village’s bridge.
Students crossing a river on a rope on their way to school in Bone, South Sulawesi, Indonesia - Sijori Images pic.twitter.com/eOf5brkwUr— GoldenCouple (@TRH_WandC) July 29, 2015
4/ Hopping the Ferry to First Period
In some parts of the Philippines, the school bus driver needs a boating license.
For years, children in some parts of the country had to swim to school until an NGO introduced large yellow canoes to ferry kids to school. The handy ride saves students a lot of energy — and keeps their homework from getting waterlogged.
5/ Riding the Magic School Boat
For other kids in the Philippines, a boat doesn’t just serve as the way to get to school, the boat is the school.
The boat school helps reach indigenous children who live scattered among the many islands that make up the Philippines.
These indigenous communities in the Philippines get their education on a boat school. pic.twitter.com/kPxKpjK5YO— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) April 17, 2017
6/ Hitching a Ride on a Snowmobile
To get to school on Mackinac Island in Lake Huron, just south of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, children mount snowmobiles and tow their younger siblings on plastic sleds through the blistering cold.
"Generally, we don't have snow days,” the school superintendent told Michigan Live. "Once you get your snowmobile stuff on, it's not going to stop you from getting to school.”
7/ Journeying Along the “Frozen Highway”
If kids in northern India’s Himalayan mountain range had access to power sports vehicles, their trek would be a bit easier.
Instead, the children embark on a weeklong walk along the mountainous Chada to distant boarding schools after winter holidays end each year. The terrain and rapidly changing weather force them to scramble across ice sheets, over massive boulders, and through blizzards.
Known as the “frozen highway,” the route’s breathtaking beauty, challenging conditions, and unpredictability attract hordes of hardy international adventurers. But the children traveling the mountain pass don’t want to test their grit and endurance; they just want to get back to school.
Kids walk miles on road filled with Ice to reach their school.The trekking campaign might b an adventure fr th hikers bt fr local Zanskaris it hs bcome necessity. While doing Chadar trek, experience hw ppl live in zanskar-leh in such cold climate. Book now https://t.co/QrFT3lrBoIpic.twitter.com/dSiQ8uyD4s— Travel Trikon (@travel_trikon) January 5, 2018