By Duncan Gordon
Earlier this year, photos of some kids’ journey to school in a remote village in Sichuan province went viral. Why?
Have a look for yourself:
The pupils from Atuleer village had to confront the 800-metre cliff face in order to attend class, scrambling down rickety ladders and rocks, while carrying their books in their backpacks. Their journey was dubbed ‘the world’s scariest school run’.
The children are part of a 72-family farming community who live on the mountain top and every 2 weeks make the perilous climb down the mountain to their school. There is no room for a school on the clifftop.
This part of Sichuan province is very poor. The villagers eat what they produce and what they can buy from a local market, which they visit weekly (also accessed via the sheer rock face). Their used to be an electric cable connecting the village with the outside world but the villagers couldn’t afford to keep it running.
The rattan ladders were very old and prone to damage, in need of frequent maintenance.
This images, taken by Chen Jie, an award-winning Beijing News photographer, caused anger amongst Chinese netizens, which spurred the local government into action.
Now, the crumbling wooden ladders have been replaced with a steel version, complete with handrails, in order to make the journey safer. This new construction will cost around 1 million yuan ($148,000), which will be split equally between the prefecture government and Zhaojue county.
The villagers were offered the chance to relocate but understandably did not wish to abandon their hometown, so the steel ladder is the best solution for now.
Er Dijiang, the village chief, says tat the school children will no be able to make it home safely for the Yi Lunar New Year celebrations. The Yi ethnic minority will celebrate their new year from November 20 until November 27.