Documentary On the Way to School

We often forget that school is a gift. The story of these four children will make you appreciate this fact. It will also touch your heart. Here is why you should watch ON THE WAY TO SCHOOL. Below, I have also listed several activities for the classroom and for home, as well as theaters where you can catch the movie.

ON THE WAY TO SCHOOL features 4 children who live in different corners of the world, but who share the same thirst for learning. They understand that only education will allow them a better future and that is why every day, they must set out on the long and perilous journey that will lead them to knowledge.

  • Jackson, 11, lives in Kenya. Twice a day, he and his younger sister walk 15 kilometers through a savannah populated by wild animals…
  • Carlito, 11, rides more than 18 kilometers twice a day with his younger sister, across the plains of Argentina, regardless of the weather…
  • Zahira, 12, lives in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains. An exhausting walk on foot along punishing mountain paths awaits her before she and her two girlfriends can reach their boarding school.
  • Samuel, 13, lives in India. The 4 kilometers he has to travel each day are an ordeal, as he doesn’t have the use of his legs. His two younger brothers have to push him all the way to school in a makeshift wheelchair.

On The Way to School immerses us in the extraordinary routines of these children, whose sheer will to accomplish their dreams leads them onto a path we have all walked – but never like this.


We often forget that school is a gift

In the United States, children go to school by car, bus or metro for those who live far away. But as the film shows, there are many ways in the world to get to school. Some like Carlito go there on horseback; others take the train or ferry. Some walk for several days and are forced to reside in a boarding school throughout the week because of the distances. The path that we take to go to school is long or short, more or less easy, more or less possible, which partly explains why nearly 61 million children worldwide are still deprived of education.
For the children in the documentary, school is not a chore; it is an opportunity, a gift that they know is of high value. For them to receive an education means having a job later, being able to take care of their family, being able to help others, understand the world, and participate in the life of their country.

Going to school and receiving an education are a given for many of us. Yet, for millions of children it is not. Because, in many countries, including countries at war, the way to school is dangerous, and many parents prefer to keep their children at home. Education is not always free: some pay for enrolling their children, and when a family is poor, it must choose which child will go to school, while others help in the fields, stay at home or earn some money to help feed the family.

Thus, the story of ON THE WAY TO SCHOOL is also a human adventure. To accomplish their dreams, these children can count on the support of their parents who encourage them to take that route, while many children stay at home, often working for the survival of their families in the various countries where the film takes place.

Activities for the classroom and for home

Organize interactive discussions

  1. Delimit the space into two parts, a side that “agrees”, and one that “disagrees”. You can signpost each side, children standing in the room.
  2. Then make a simple statement, such as “all children go to school.” Children will choose a side, according to their opinion.
  3. In turn, each team makes an argument to explain why they agree or disagree with the statement. You can leave time for brainstorming, for each team to prepare its argument.
  4. During and after each presentation, children can switch teams if an opposing argument convinced them. The goal for each team is to bring as many people as possible to its side.

Examples of statements:

  • All children go to school
  • Education is a right
  • School is a gift
  • School is a service
  • School is only for learning to read and write
  • We don’t need money to go to school.

Addressing major themes

Citizenship / Opening to the world, discovering other cultures

  • Locate on a map the countries where the children in the film live.
  • On which continents are they?
  • And you, where do you live?
  • Which of these children would you be friends with?
  • What do you like about their lifestyles?
  • What seems most difficult on their way to go to school?

Living together / solidarity
Samuel is helped by his brothers on the way to school, and by his schoolmates once in the schoolyard.

  • For you, what does solidarity mean?
  • Do you have examples of actions in solidarity around you?
  • With whom are you supportive?
  • With your family, with your classmates, with your neighbors, with strangers?

Disability and discrimination

  • What type of disability does Samuel have?
  • What could be other forms of disabilities?
  • Can we go to school despite these disabilities?
  • Do you know of other reasons that can prevent some children from going to school?

Equality between girls and boys

  • Why has Zahira’s grandmother never been to school?
  • In your opinion: today, are boys and girls treated in the same way in all the schools of the world?
  • And in your classroom?

About the film

They live in all four corners of the planet and share a thirst for knowledge. Almost instinctively, they know that their well-being, indeed their survival, depends on knowledge and education. From the dangerous savannahs of Kenya to the winding trails of the Atlas mountains in Morocco, to the suffocating heat of Southern India and the vast, dizzying plateaux of Patagonia, these children are all united by the same quest, the same dream. Jackson, Zahira, Samuel and Carlito are the heroes of “On the Way to School”, a film that interweaves the four pupils forced to confront and overcome countless, often dangerous obstacles – enormous distances over treacherous territory, snakes, elephants, even bandits – on their journey to the classroom. By setting foot on their extraordinary path, by embarking on this adventure littered with traps and challenges, they will begin to leave their childhoods behind. Pascal Plisson’s film recounts the journey of initiation that will change their lives forever.

As we watch the different paths these children take to go to school, their transformative journeys become ours and we are reminded that education is a treasure that our families and communities nurture within us sometimes at a great sacrifice because they do trust that the future can be a better place than the present. – Forest Whitaker

Watch documentary on YouTube (for a fee)

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