TENGXIAN, Guangxi – The Chenping village’s primary school sits in a valley of mountains offering parents the chance to send their children to a school that only offers schooling from kindergarten to grade 3. There are a grand total of 80 students who attend this school, and 30 of them unfortunately are separated from the school by a big water reservoir.
With no other choices, these 30 kids must use a flimsy bamboo raft to paddle to school every day. Whether it is windy, raining or scorching hot, the kids usually find a way to go to school and go back home each day. It is estimated the kids travel a total distance of 2 km each day, 1 km paddling to school, another 1 km paddling back home. This approximately amounts to 300 km in a year.
If the kids were to get to school by foot, they would be required to commute a total distance of 16 km each day, with 8 km being rocky, mountainous terrain. In addition, this route has a bridge that has been flooded by water making it impossible to use as a footpath.
Considered “a mandatory course”
Residents of the village said after the construction of the water reservoir was complete in 1980, many of them viewed paddling to school as “a mandatory course”. Kids as young as 4, 5 years old had to carry a bamboo raft and paddle to school, up until they reached grade 3. Fortunately none of the kids have ever fallen in the water. If this were to happen, a resident of the village explains, “All the kids know how to swim, so we’re lucky no accidents have happened yet.”
Dangerous conditions and undesirable weather
Dangerous conditions that the children face are coupled with water constantly entering the raft, causing the kids to be soaked head to toe when they are paddling. The conditions are worse during the winter months, as the temperature drops and the water on the kids’ clothes makes it extremely cold.
Many parents are worried about the dangers their children encounter, but at the present moment cannot find the time to personally send their children to school themselves. A possible alternative was to hire someone to drive a ferry, but this would probably not be a practical solution since all the kids do not live in the same area, making it inconvenient to go to school and go home.
“The dream” of the local villagers
Teachers of the school have repeatedly informed the local education board about the hazards, and they have responded by providing the kids with life jackets and issuing warning reports to not attend school when there is strong wind or heavy rain. In spite of the efforts made, parents and teachers believe providing a school bus or a big ferry would be the most ideal situation. This currently has become “the dream” of the local students, parents and teachers.