Schoolchildren from rural Hunan province in China must climb unsecured wooden ladders on cliffs to get to school each day, Chinese media recently discovered.  

“Zhangjiawan village is mountainous; its altitude averages over 800 meters (2,625 feet),” the village chief, Liu Xingjie, said. “There are many ladders set over precipices.” These unsecured ladders are hung on steep, nearly 90-degree cliffs, over drops of up to 80 meters (260 feet), halfway up the mountain. Looking from below, the rocks on the cliff appear loose, as if they might fall at any moment.

“It’s not too scary if it’s not raining,” said Liu Dan, a 5-year-old girl who has to climb these ladders to get to school each day.

Brother and sister Yu Qiyun and Yu Xinxin, whose school in the township of Longtanping is 35 kilometers (22 miles) away from home, have to climb two ladders to get there. Once, Yu Xinxin almost had an accident.

“If Mom hadn't caught her, it would have been terrible,” Yu Qiyun said. The ladders were made by the children's grandfather, and they have to be replaced every three to five years.

Following media reports on the “school ladders, local government has been under intense pressure. In response to charges that the ladders reflect carelessness about improving living conditions, the local government announced it will come up with a replacement plan and begin building as soon as possible.

“The government acted only after media attention. This is irresponsible and lazy governing,” said an editorial in the Changsha (the capital city of Hunan) Evening News.

In 2007, it was reported that some children in Yunnan province in southwest China had to cross a river using a sliding cable to get to school. After the media exposure, a bridge was eventually built.