Most Dangerous Ways To School KENYA Free Documentary

(suspenseful orchestra music) Narrator: We all know it. Walked it every day. But none of them were like these. The world's most dangerous ways to school. Climbing. Freezing. Paddling for hours. All for the chance of a better life. Risky, spectacular, and sometimes just simply beautiful. The world's most dangerous ways to school. (bright orchestral music) Little children. They walk through the Kenyan savanna. Each day, a journey full of adventure. And, dangers. (elephants calling) But for those who come here for schooling, (children singing) it's an ordinary way to school, including thirst, hunger, and wild animals. Every day life on one of the world's most dangerous ways to school. (bright music) Southwestern Kenya. Far away from the cities. The broad expanse of the savanna. For many centuries, it has been a living space of the Maasai. Cows and goats. For generations, their most prized possessions. Nothing governs their life more than their livestock. The Maasai are partially nomadic. Their settlements simple. Their houses plain. As soon as their cattle have nothing left to feed on, the Maasai move on. That's why their villages lie so far apart. And it's exactly the reason why the Maasai children have such a long and dangerous way to school. (suspenseful music) 4:00 a.m. Before going off to school, the night watch is the task at hand. Eight year old Moseika guards the families cows and goats. Sometimes wild animals sneak into the villages at night. A threat to everyone. (speaking in foreign language) Moseika: I've already seen lions and hyenas. They try to kill our goats. But I am brave. Narrator: When dawn sets in around 6:00, the Maasai village Kassiola comes to life. Moseika's night watch ends. And his way to school begins. -: When I have to go to school, after having guarded the goats at night, I am incredibly tired. (goat baaing) Narrator: 12 families live in the village of Kassiola. Most of Moseika's friends stay at home and tend the cattle. Many parents are afraid to send their children off on the 10 kilometer long way to school, right through the savanna. At a quarter past 8:00, in two hours, school lessons start. Little time left to have a wash. Students like Moseika from all across the region are setting off this morning on their way to the only school far and wide. (birds chirping) 10 kilometers away, a 12 year old Koitungi is just about to set off in the village of Eneramito Cheregi. Normally, Koitungi sleeps at the boarding school. Once a month, she needs to go home to fetch the school fees. Koitungi has one great goal for when she has finished school. (bells clanging) -: I was in a town once where 500 people lived. I would really like to live there. Narrator: Koitungi has one of the farthest ways to school ever. Almost 20 kilometers. (speaking in foreign language) Narrator: Her mother Namanu accompanies her daughter for a short while. Because especially the area near the village is extremely dangerous. Many animals are hiding in the bushes and forests. They have repeatedly attacked and injured villagers. (speaking in foreign language) -: It's a wild place. There are so many dangers. Especially the elephants. But also the monkeys and lions. I have to at least bring her to where the bushes end, and then I can still watch her a few meters further. Narrator: They walk together until they reach the peak of the hill. Then, Koitungi's mother must return in order to attend the farm and the animals. (speaking in foreign language) -: Take good care of yourself. Here, take the money. That should be enough for one month. And now off you go. Be careful. It seems peaceful, but it's dangerous for the children. There are elephants and lions, and sometimes there are people simply up to no good when it comes to children. That's all part of their way to school. (soft music) I have no telephone, I am not rich. That's why it takes many days before I know my little one has arrived safely at school. Narrator: In the course of the next few days, Namanu will ask everybody if they have seen her daughter, whether she has arrived at school, whether she is fine. Her way to school leads the 12 year old south, through the Kenyan Zerrik shrub land. In the Maasai village in Nachoa, the day starts far less early for the students. (birds chirping) Four year old Letiunka takes his time. His home is no more than an hour's walk away from his school. Letiunka is a half orphan. His father died in an accident on the fields. In fact, his mother could well use him at home to tend to the animals. But she wants him to become more than a farmer, and her son Letiunka likes going to school. -: We can run and play on the way, and just mess around. Sometimes, we also fetch some water on the way. But most of the time, we are hungry. Narrator: Like most Maasai, Letiunka almost exclusively lives off tea and milk. He very rarely eats meat. (baby wailing) Not really a whole lot of energy for his tiring and dangerous way to school. (whistling) At shortly before 7:00 a.m., night watchman Moseika is ready to set off on his way to school from his village Kassiola. One and a half hours before school starts. Due to the night watch, Moseika has been on his feet for more than 12 hours. Often, his only breakfast, a few drops of milk. (cow mooing) Moseika's mother worries. In the last few days, elephants often visited the area. The Maasai consider them to be one of the most dangerous species of the wilderness. (speaking in foreign language) -: Recently, one of our neighbors was killed by an elephant. She was walking the same path my child takes to school. That's why I keep saying to my son, during the week, you must sleep somewhere near school. Don't come home. Find yourself a hiding place until the weekend. But there, too, of course, something could happen. Narrator: Moseika's older brother Seruni accompanies him and his girlfriend Sohile, the first few meters. Seruni knows both need to eat meat at some point. (cattle bells clanging) (speaking in foreign language) -: On your way to school, pass by the place where they do the slaughtering. Today they'll have meat and blood. Go on. Narrator: Drinking animal blood, a ritual which is supposed to give the male Maasai power and strength. By tradition, the Maasai never slaughter at home. Only at ritual places and for special occasions. Slaughtering grounds lie a few kilometers away from the school. But to get there is dangerous, and the further the two walk away from the village, the hungrier they get. -: We don't get anything to eat at school. Only the boarders. Very seldom do we get a share. The last time we got something was months ago. I am hungry, and drinking blood makes me stronger. (bright orchestral music) Narrator: Their way to school passes the slaughtering grounds. And will lead Moseika and Sohile through the Leopards Valley. Infamous for roaming predators. It takes courage to go to school here. Meanwhile, 12 year old Koitungi has been on her way for one and half hours already. The monsoon season is about to begin, and is still dry. The courses of the rivers are nearly dried up. Koitungi takes a shortcut, and walks through the Gnongonjorich riverbed. In English, it translates to something like liquid salt. The soils of the region are very saline. Time for a little refreshment. In this heat, which is increasing by the minute. It's early in the morning, and already the temperature lies at 25 degrees Celsius. -: It's difficult to find something to eat, and finding water is nearly impossible. I could walk along here for ages without finding drinkable water. Right now, I'd love to have some tea, some rice, and peas would be great, too. (suspenseful music) Narrator: Koitungi is in a hurry. She won't make it on time for the start of her lessons, but she wants to arrive there for the lunch break. So she can eat there if she's on time. (people chattering) Barely an hour before school starts, in the Maasai village in Nachoa, Letiunka too needs to go. Even though he is only four years old, he has to march through the wild step. A very worried mother stays behind. -: There are wild animals here. I've already faced some elephants myself. Once, my little boy came across an elephant. I still remember when he came home, and he showed me how big it was, and how it behaved. Even with as much as we know about the dangers, we also know it'll make him stronger for the future. I leave his fate to God. There's nothing I can do. I can only hope that God may help him on his way to school. Narrator: Letiunka doesn't yet dare to go on his own. Every morning, he meets up with his friends Senchura and Seban. No matter how dangerous the way to school may be, it definitely is a good idea to know it in detail. -: It's actually quite simple. To get to school, you just have to go past the big tree, over to the other big tree, and then, onto the next one. We don't go near that village over there. We must go this way. And then, we are almost there. (birds chirping) Narrator: And so the three youngest set off on their long journey through the Kenyan savanna. The students' destination, the Antuka primary school. The only school within a radius of about 20 kilometers. (rhythmic drumming) While almost 200 boarding students pass the time waiting for their lessons to start, simultaneously, the same amount of students march through the savanna every day. Their teacher, Imbuku Kulayu, comes from Kenya's capital city, Nairobi. Her job is to teach the children Swahili, English, and math. Only a fraction of the Maasai children go to school at all. They speak their own language, and maintain their own culture. (caps rattling) -: I respect the way the Maasai live, but they have to learn how important school is, and try harder to bring their children here, or else they will keep tending cows, and will have no chance of becoming something else. Narrator: On an average, four out of five Maasai children stay with their families during the day, and do not learn how to read or write their entire life. Those children who do go to school hardly ever arrive on time for the lessons. It's a good thing to have a teacher who knows from personal experience how dangerous the way to school through the savanna can be. (bright music) -: I go a different way to school than the children do. But I too once saw an elephant. It stood in front of me, and I was really scared. Elephants are very dangerous. And from then on I knew, if a child is late and says, an elephant came across my way, I will never punish him or her. Narrator: The Kenyan savanna. A huge open air zoo, with an incredible diversity of species. Seen from the perspective of parents who send their children to school every day, it is an unfenced zoo, though. An open space where the natural law of eat or be eaten is part of everyday life. Eight year old Moseika and his fellow student Sohile are approaching the most dangerous place in the region. The Leopard Cliffs. On their way there, they meet the giants of the savanna. Giraffes can be up to six meters tall. In contrast to many other animals, they are absolutely harmless for the children. -: Take a look. I like giraffes the most. Aren't they huge? Narrator: Southern Kenya remains one of the areas in the world with the most diverse animal population. It is a moment of joy and of relaxation for Moseika and Sohile. Their way leads the two students into the Antuka Valley. The palm oasis. The idol is treacherous. The valley is leopard territory. (suspenseful music) Meanwhile, four year old Letiunka and his friends are having a very special kind of fun. Whether it's antelopes, gazelles, or gnus, most animals are afraid of humans. Even if they are just little school children. -: It's best when we get to chase the animals. Narrator: As soon as one animals runs away, the others follow. And so Letiunka and his friends run to school together with gnus and gazelles. Shortly before school starts, Koitungi hasn't even got as far as halfway. She is hungry, and looking for Ellua plants in a field. A small, bitter fruit. But it's a bad time of the year for her search. Months of heat have dried up everything. Koitungi taps on the bushes to see where the ants scuttle, 'cause that's where the few edible fruits are. (bells clanging) -: The fruit doesn't satisfy my appetite, but at least it gives me some energy. Narrator: Even if Koitungi gets tired, even if the heat, which has by now reached 30 degrees Celsius, is wearing her out. She does not take long breaks. Because at noon, the boarders receive their food. If she is too late, she won't get anything to eat until the next morning. The four year old Letiunka and his friends are suffering from the heat, too. Luckily enough, one of the rare water holes of the region lies close to their path. It's going to be the only water they will get in the course of the next few hours. (speaking in foreign language) -: We have to pass by here if we are thirsty. We don't get any water at school. (upbeat music) Narrator: The three youngest ones have made it. Only one kilometer lies ahead of them. Meanwhile, Moseika and Sohile are coming closer to the most dangerous spot of the Antuka Valley, the Leopard Cliff. More dreaded than any other place in the region. The cliff. Every Maasai knows somewhere up there, the big cats roam. But whoever wants to go to the slaughtering grounds must pass here. -: I have been here once before. That time, the leopards were up there. (birds chirping) Narrator: No one knows for sure why of all places the leopards hang about up there by the rocks. One thing Moseika's mother knows for sure, though, is that she has forbidden her son to go near the cliffs. Several Maasai have been attacked and injured badly in the area already. -: I am a woman. I'm not allowed to go to the place where they do the slaughtering, but I know it is a dangerous place. There are leopards, buffaloes, and other dangerous animals. Narrator: And now in late Summer, another danger is imminent. The weather. When the first rain falls, pelt on the dry soil after a long period of drought, they flood the land immediately. (suspenseful music) The weather is unpredictable, and changes at short notice. Moseika's mother is constantly worried about her son. She tries to distract herself through work, but her thoughts keep returning to her son. And his dangerous way to school. -: The rain is as bad as the wild animals. Whether a child is washed away by the rain, or eaten by an animal, it makes no difference. The child dies. Narrator: Rain. Normally a blessing for the Maasai. It's good for the plants, the animals, and their drinking water supply. But it's also dangerous for the children. But it seems as if the children are lucky. In the distance where the school lies, the sun is shining. Letiunka and his friends have nearly made it. While they are walking the last few meters, they have some time to dream of their future. -: When I grow up, I want to own more cows than anyone else in the world. Narrator: A decent Maasai, so they say, owns at least 50 cows and goats. A quarter past 8:00 in the morning, while the others are still on their way, Letiunka's group reaches school first. And just in time for the morning assembly. (bell clinging) Kenya has 40 million inhabitants. Only a fraction, about 300,000 of them, are Maasai. This minority's culture is nonexistent in the regular lessons. Nine classes altogether, each with about 40 students, assemble in the schoolyard, and hoist the Kenyan flag, chanting the national anthem. (all singing in foreign language) The teachers know that like every day, some desks will remain vacant for the time being. When school starts, many students are still on their way in the wide expanses of the savanna. (upbeat drumming music) Like Koitungi, seven kilometers away, the girl meanwhile makes her way through the bushes. Often monkeys are hiding in the trees, and snakes in the bushes. And there are other dangers imminent, too. (birds chirping) -: There is no other way to school. I have to take this route. I know there are animals here. Elephants and buffaloes. But the school is supposed to change my life. I simply have to take this route. Narrator: Just a few steps ahead, indications grow stronger that the way to a better life is going to be very dangerous also today. -: This is elephant poop. This heap here is old. The other one is fresh. Maybe two or three days. I'm afraid of elephants. Narrator: Elephants. The greatest danger of all. Koitungi can only hope she will not encounter one. The eight year old Moseika and his fellow student Sohile also have to be careful, and hope to avoid meeting a leopard. They took a detour especially in order to be able to eat some meat after weeks. At 9:00 a.m., they reach the slaughtering grounds. -: Are you slaughtering now? -: Yes, we're gonna slaughter today. We have a few goats. But it'll take a while. Come around after school. You'll get your share then. Narrator: Disappointed and hungry, the two move on. In the meantime, Koitungi has a queasy feeling. (suspenseful music) Elephants. Very close by. (elephants sounding) -: I have to walk against the wind. It's dangerous. If they smell you, they kill you. Narrator: Up until now, nobody actually knows when and why elephants attack humans. But every Maasai knows the danger, and every child learns at an early age about the against-the-wind strategy. It is essential for the children's survival. (elephants sounding) And then, Koitungi discovers another danger. Bulls. -: I keep my eyes glued to the grass, and keep watch in the direction of the wind. Narrator: It seems to work. More and more, the girl manages to disappear, out of the animals' sight. Meanwhile, Moseika and Sohile have almost made it. But since they still have empty stomachs, they eat anything they find by the wayside. The bitter Urmisagiyu fruit fills their stomachs. At least a bit. -: I like eating this, but it doesn't give us as much energy as meat. We find this fruit quite often, but meat and blood are incredibly rare. Narrator: 10:00 a.m. at the Antuka primary school. While other students are still on their way to school, Letiunka, at four, is learning English and math. (children chattering) Kupai is one of the few teachers at school who is a Maasai. When she was young, just about 5% of the Maasai went to school. Today, there are four times as many Maasai students. Students: The week. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. Kupai: Again. Students: Thursday. (speaking in foreign language) -: It's not easy for the children. They learn Swahili here, and they learn English. But most of the parents only speak Maasai. So at home, they teach their parents. We teach the children, and they teach their parents. Narrator: Letiunka's mother also never went to school. She can hardly count, nor read or write. Sometimes, he teaches her a few words in the national language Swahili, or reads from his exercise book. The students here have to learn everything by themselves. No one can help them with their homework. And almost no parent knows what going to school is all about. Learning, and also having a little fun. (upbeat music) (children chattering) -: I like counting best. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, nine, 10. Narrator: Moseika and Sohile have made it, too. At shortly after half past 10:00. -: Where are you coming from? Why are you so late? What? Huh? -: We were at the slaughter place. -: Where? That's dangerous. I should really give you a good beating. What about you? Why didn't you look after them? Did you make them go there? -: There is food there. -: You're supposed to be here on time. (children laughing) Narrator: In spite of the punishment, both are glad to have finally arrived. They are late often, and miss more than a third of the classes. Mostly, the English and Swahili lessons. Often, they only arrive in time for math, which is the third lesson of the day. 12 year old Koitungi has meanwhile left the herd of elephants behind. She seems safe. Koitungi was the first to leave in the morning. Now, she'll be the last to arrive. Today at least, she wants to be in time for lunch. But in the long run, she is expecting a whole lot more. -: If I were living at home in my village, I'd have another year or two before I get married. That's for sure. But I hope this won't happen. I want to go to school and get a higher education. With that, I want to leave and become a doctor. And one day be able to build a house for my parents. Maybe I'll even have a car. Narrator: At shortly before 12:00, Koitungi reaches her destination, school. Just in time for lunch. But beforehand, she still has to deliver the fee for a month of boarding school to the headmaster himself. 750 Kenyan shillings. That's about six euros 50. A lot of money for her family. They have to sell two goats in order to pay for a year of school. The goats are their only most important belonging. (speaking in foreign language) -: Hello. Did you have a safe trip? You're late. Oh, you got the money, that's good. What's your name? Here's your boarding school certificate for this month. (bell clanging) Narrator: 12 o'clock, lunch break. For all boarders, this means food. There are two meals to choose from every day. The distribution takes place according to age. The youngest first. (chattering) After 10 minutes, Koitungi too receives her meal. Beans, her reward for a five hour long dangerous march through the savanna. -: I'm happy to be here. Finally something to eat, and having lessons again. But I miss my parents, and often think of them. (bright orchestral music) Narrator: Moseika and Sohile also have to pay a small fee for the school. About one euro per month. But they are not boarders, and therefor, they get nothing to eat. (children laughing) (chattering) -: During the break, I am always very hungry. I wish I'd get the same food the boarding students receive. I want school to finish so I can eat some meat and drink some blood. (upbeat music) Narrator: Little Letiunka gets nothing to eat, either. But at least school finishes at 12 o'clock for the youngest ones. So he heads off home together with his friends. -: I got to hurry. I have to tend to the cows. But I like that. I could play there. Narrator: Dawdling? Out of the question for the little ones. The three Maasai children have another hour of marching through the Kenyan savanna ahead of them. After school, Letiunka, unlike other four year olds, can not simply play or frolic around. Work is awaiting him instead. Since the death of his father, there is no one else to look after the cattle. -: Good that you're back. That makes me happy. Narrator: Letiunka only just has time for a sip of milk for lunch. His mother, Senchura, would gladly send him to boarding school, but she can not afford it. She can dream, however. (coughing) -: I want my children to learn a lot. I wish my son would one day become president of Kenya. Narrator: Not only his mother, little Letiunka, too, dreams of the great wide world. -: I want to be a teacher one day. And then I want to travel and see other countries. And then I want to return and visit my mother. Narrator: Thus, another school day ends for Letiunka. He will tend the cows 'til dusk, and then go to sleep. For the other school children, the day still goes on. (children talking) Moseika and Sohile finish school at 2:00 p.m. (speaking in foreign language) Narrator: While their classmates play, the two set off on their way to the Maasai slaughtering grounds. They are hoping to eat some meat for the first time in many weeks. And little Moseika hopes to drink some blood. (bells chiming) (children singing) Koitungi finishes school at 4:00 p.m. She can retreat with her friends. And while the other girls play, she still contemplates school. And her future. (children chattering) -: I don't like it when girls my age have to get married. I want to change that through what I learn here. Narrator: With this hope, Koitungi goes to sleep. In a month's time, she will return home to her parents to fetch money for the boarding school fee. At 5:00 p.m., Moseika and Sohile have finally made it. They have reached the slaughtering grounds. Moseika's older brother is there, too. (speaking in foreign language) Narrator: Both students finally want to eat something. Eight year old Moseika is awaiting a ritual reserves solely for the male Maasai. Drinking blood. (chattering in foreign language) -: Blood makes me strong. (rhythmic drumming) Narrator: According to the belief of the Maasai, the blood of the goat will give Moseika strength during the next days. Meanwhile, Sohile is still waiting to be allowed to eat something. Long hungry minutes before at last she may. The inner organs like the kidneys are reserved for the women. The meat largely goes to the men. The students have made it for today, in spite of all the dangers and struggles. One thing Moseika is sure about, he wants to stay here even after having finished school. All his life. -: My greatest wish is to have many, many cows. I like being a Maasai. We have cows, we have goats. That's all I need in my life. Narrator: The Maasai children's day is drawn to an end. (slow orchestral music) Moseika and Sohile will sleep by the campfire tonight, and brace themselves, for tomorrow morning, they will have to set off very early on their way to school through the African savanna. They all want to learn something, each for his or her own personal dream.