The school has four grades and 3,956 pupils, aged thirteen through sixteen. The day starts at 7:40 with a reading related to the curriculum; then there are classes of forty-five minutes each throughout the day. The pupils stay in the same classroom all day and the teachers rotate. They have an exercise break at 9:30 (when this photo was taken) and after lunch there is a compulsory nap. School finishes at 5:10. All students wear uniforms. The girls often adjust their baggy trousers to make them tighter. They are supposed to have short hair, though this regulation is not strictly enforced. The school does not want them to show off or compete to attract “bad boys.”
This is one of the most prestigious schools in Tokyo; the Empress of Japan was a student. The school was founded in 1908 by four nuns from Australia. Seishin Joshi Gakuin means “The Sacred Heart,” and although the school is Catholic, only thirty percent of the students are Christian. Gaining a place is difficult, with four hundred girls applying for the ninety-six places in grade one. Discipline at this school is important. Student responsibilities include organizing committees, community service, and working in the library. Twice a week all students have to clean the classroom for ten to fifteen minutes and put on gloves to clean the toilets. At break time, the girls were exemplary, playing happily among themselves.
Situated on a dramatic ridge overlooking Thimphu, the capital of the Kingdom of Bhutan, the ancient Dechen Phodrang Monastery (literally, the “Palace of Great Bliss”) has 450 students and fifteen teachers. Students wake up at 5:00 a.m., and start the day with one hour of praying before their first classes at 6:30 a.m. At 8:00 a.m. students have breakfast and a short break before resuming classes until noon. Living conditions at the monastery are rudimentary; the children sleep on mats on the floors of the drafty study rooms. Respiratory infections, lice, and scabies are common, and the monastery struggles to provide basic sanitation facilities and adequate food for the boys. Many boys are sent to the monastery because their families cannot afford to feed them; most come aged seven, and stay eight years before transferring
to the Monastic College.
This is a secular, governmentfunded primary school focused on art, music, and dance. There are 274 pupils and thirty teachers. Sderot is the nearest Israeli town to the Gaza border which is just two kilometers away. The school was founded in 2009 and was designed to withstand bomb attacks, with reinforced walls and windows. The brightly colored building in the middle of the playground is a bomb shelter to which the students run if the alarm sounds. On June 29, 2012, seven rockets were fired on Sderot from Gaza; one hit the school. Luckily it was a Saturday and school was out. The school has left the damage unrepaired as a reminder of the danger. Everyone in Sderot has family or friends who have been affected by the rockets, and the students and teachers are traumatized by the threat.
This school is funded by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The facilities are used by two separate schools. The morning school has 976 girls and boys, and the afternoon school has 945 boys. A huge piece of fabric hangs over the playground to protect the children from the sun. Overcrowding is a big problem at Maamounia. The school had to make new classrooms in shipping containers, which get very hot in summer. None of the teachers want to teach in these classrooms, so they take turns. Because of the blockade of Gaza, over forty percent of students’parents are unemployed. The closing of the tunnels has hit the economy hard, and the shops are empty. The school was used as a shelter during the summer 2014 conflict, which claimed the lives of 138 students attending UNRWA schools.
In January 2001 a devastating earthquake hit Gujarat, killing about twenty thousand people and destroying four hundred thousand homes. Ludiya was severely damaged, and the town’s inhabitants thought that a less crowded environment would be safer. So the Hindus migrated two kilometers north, while the Muslims remained. The population of the new Hindu village is just two hundred. This school is on the edge of the new village. There are about thirty-five children in grades one through five, taught in a single classroom. Little can be grown in this harsh land and vegetables have to be imported. A well was provided by an NGO and more recently the government has paid for a water pipeline. The school has no toilet and there are only five toilets in the village, all without running water.
Freretown was established in 1875 as a place for the settlement of freed slaves. The bell that was rung to warn residents of the approach of slave-trading vessels can still be seen nearby. The average class size at this school was thirty-five in the 1960s and has grown to eightyfive. Because of a shortage of desks and chairs, the younger classes sit on the cement floors, which are full of potholes. Many of the children are AIDS orphans and are allowed a fifty-percent discount on school equipment. The boys often drop out of school to become “beach boys,” begging or stealing from tourists, the girls may enter the sex trade. The headmistress blames political corruption for the school’s poor state. She also believes it is important for African men to drop their opposition to family planning. There are several local families with over ten children.