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Staircase hope for Chinese ladder schoolchildren

Published 27/05/2016

Children wearing their school backpacks climb on a cliff on their way home from school in Zhaojue county (AP)
Children wearing their school backpacks climb on a cliff on their way home from school in Zhaojue county (AP)

A village in China's mountainous west where schoolchildren must climb an 800 metre high bamboo ladder secured to a sheer cliff face may get a set of steel stairs to improve safety.

The concerns arose after striking pictures were taken of the children climbing the ladder in Sichuan province's Zhaojue county, in a scene that shows the vast gap in development between China's prosperous, modern east and parts of the remote inland west that remain mired in poverty.

The ladder is the only access to the village of Atuleer to which the children return every two weeks from the school at which they board.

The 72 families who live there are members of the Yi minority group and subsist mainly by farming potatoes, walnuts and chilli peppers.

A news release from the Liangshan prefectural government that oversees the county said a set of stairs would be built as a stop-gap measure while officials consider a longer-term solution.

It quoted local residents as saying that in addition to the safety issue, the ladder-only access exposed villagers to exploitation because traders knew they would be unable to carry unsold produce back up the cliff.

"The most important issue at hand is to solve the transport issue. That will allow us to make larger-scale plans about opening up the economy and looking for opportunities in tourism," county Communist Party Secretary General Jikejingsong was quoted as saying in the news release.

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