ATULE’ER IS A SMALL VILLAGE IN THE Chinese Sichuan province. It sits on top of a cliff at an altitude of 4,600 feet, and is home to a mere 400 people. Because it is so small, it doesn’t have a school. As a result, the 15 children in the village (between the ages of 6 and 15) have to climb a half a mile down the cliff face on rickety bamboo and rope ladders to get to school. Because of how dangerous the trip is, they can only go back and forth twice a month.
Villagers as a whole aren’t particularly pleased about their situation — if someone gets sick, another villager must tie the person to their back and carry them down the cliff face with the help of two others. And if the villagers go to the market at the bottom of the mountain, they are easy to exploit, as the buyers at the base of the mountain know that the villagers want to sell all of their wares to they don’t have to lug it back up the mountain.
But it was the video of the children climbing the mountain for school that helped change things.
The story blew up in China last month when a photographer went to the village to film children climbing back up to the village. When the footage was published by the state-run Beijing News, the government decided to step in, and has promised to install safer stairs on the mountainside and possibly one day, a road.