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Viewing the Film "On the Way to School"

Japanese Chinese

I recently attended a preview screening of the film "On the Way to School" by the French director Pascal Plisson. In documentary style, it shows children who live in the rural areas of India, Kenya, Argentina, and Morocco as they make their way to school.

In Kenya, an 11-year-old brother and 8-year-old sister, walk from their humble home in the middle of the savannah to the nearest elementary school. In India, two boys travel to school with their older brother who has cerebral palsy. The children from two other countries do the same.

But there is nothing ordinary about the road they take to school. The brother and sister in Kenya walk 14 kilometers to school. In Japan, students would travel this distance by bus or train. In Kenya, however, there is no such transportation to school, and the children have to walk four hours everyday, sometimes encountering herds of dangerous elephants on the way. The brothers in India walk four kilometers to school. Although this may not seem far, the younger brothers push their older brother with cerebral palsy in a dilapidated, makeshift wheelchair over bumpy, unpaved roads and across the shallows of a river.

I think there were children like this in Japan in the past. Today, if there are such children in Japan, the issue becomes one of providing school bus service or establishing a branch school for them.

Watching the children silently on their way to school, what occurred to me was not the necessity of improving the poor educational environment.

I was moved by the energy of these children who, firmly believing in the significance of receiving an education, overcome obstacles to attend school, and by their parents who, believing in them, send them off to school despite the possibility of danger.

After the film screening, I had an opportunity to talk with the brother and sister from Kenya who had been invited to Japan. The brother, who is now 13 years old, found it hard to believe that there were many children in Japan who did not want to go to school. Addressing the parents in the audience who had come with their children, he said, "Mothers and fathers, if your children don't want to go to school, please make them attend anyway, even if you have to drag them there. Children need to know what a wonderful thing it is to get an education."

The problems of children who refuse to go to school are complex, so I don't think it is appropriate to direct the brother's words to every child who refuse to attend school in Japan, but this film reminded me again that receiving an education is a basic human right.

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Sakakihara_Yoichi.bmp Yoichi Sakakihara
M.D., Ph.D., Professor, Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences, Ochanomizu University; Director of Child Research Net, President of Japanese Society of Child Science. Specializes in pediatric neurology, developmental neurology, in particular, treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger's syndrome and other developmental disorders, and neuroscience. Born in 1951. Graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Tokyo in 1976 and taught as an instructor in the Department of the Pediatrics before assuming current post.
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