For the past 10 months, children in Indonesia’s Banten province have been commuting to school on narrow bamboo rafts—along a river best known to tourists for its whitewater rapids—because local authorities still haven’t fixed a bridge that collapsed in January in a flood. In China, a group of children in Guangxi province, some as young as four years old, also travel to school along a river on flimsy rafts because other routes to the school, along a flooded mountain path, are even more dangerous.
These commutes are examples of just how difficult it is for children around the world to access education. According to a June report from UNESCO, 57 million children aren’t going to school—or 11% of all children of primary school age. Almost a quarter of those children had attended school but dropped out. One reason is because the journeys are too long, difficult or even dangerous. (Another major reason: Families need their children to work and contribute to household income.) Often, areas encompassed in school commutes are simply ill-equipped for flooding and other natural disasters.
What’s worse, progress in connecting children to schools has slowed over the past five years, according to UNESCO. “Between 2000 and 2005, we saw a dramatic reduction in the number of children excluded from primary education. But since then, the rate of change has slowed down considerably,” says Hendrik van der Pol, director of UNESCO’s Institute of Statistics. Between 2005 and 2011, the number of children out of school fell by 13.3 million, compared to 31.5 million between 2000 and 2005.
Progress has slowed most in Sub-Saharan Africa, home to more than half of the world’s out-of-school children. In countries like Nigeria, the population is outpacing the build-up of needed infrastructure. Only 62% of children in the Philippines attended high school between 2007 and 2008. In India, the number of out-of-school children fell 67% from 2003 to 8.1 million in 2009
Ever since a bridge broke in Cilangkap village in the Banten province of Indonesia, students have been forced find alternative means of crossing the Ciherang river to get to school. Here, students are pictured using a makeshift bamboo raft.
Alternatively, some children have resorted to crossing the river by foot. Here, a mother is seen escorting her daughter to school.
Not all children, however, are necessarily accompanied in their travels across the Ciherang river.
The only way for students to get to Banpo Primary School in Shengji county in China’s Guizhou province is by means of this treacherous mountain-side road. The school is located halfway up a steep mountain, and the narrow path, which was carved from the cliff over 40 years ago, is the only viable route. Here, the headmaster of the school is pictured escorting students up.
Heavy rains in Kashmir have caused periodic flooding, often making it both difficult and potentially dangerous to get to school. Here, children are pictured carrying their benches after their school was flooded thanks to heavy rains at Bassi Kalan village in the outskirts of Jammu.
Here, children in Kashmir are seen crossing a damaged footbridge on their way home from school. The footbridge, built over a stream, was damaged by flooding caused by heavy rains.
School girls are pictured walking across a plank on the walls of the 16th century Galle fort in Sri Lanka.
Flooding in 2010 due to high tides and massive waves submerged large parts of Havana, Cuba with sea water for days. Here, a young boy is pictured traveling through thigh-deep water to get to school.
Omika Elementary School is the nearest one located to the tsunami-crippled Fukishima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Only 91 of the original 205 students stayed. Here, a number of them are seen walking near a geiger counter, used to measure radiation levels.
Haiti’s National Road No. 7 was supposed to connect Les Cayes and Jeremie, a 56-mile stretch. Instead, it is another example of the many abandoned infrastructure projects in the country. Here, students are pictured returning home from school along the many miles of unfinished road.