On the Way to School

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
On the Way to School Movie Poster Image
Stirring docu explores school journeys around the globe.
  • NR
  • 2009
  • 77 minutes

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 2 reviews

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The importance of getting an education is shown by the kids who travel great lengths to attend the nearest school. Themes include curiosity, perseverance, humility, courage, and teamwork. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The four kids travel great lengths and face dangerous surroundings to get to their closest schools and get an education. Even in the midst of difficulties and challenges that are unthinkable for most children in developed countries, these four kids maintain a positive attitude, determined to better themselves by getting to school and learning. 


Peril for two kids in Kenya who must run across open spaces and avoid getting trampled by elephants. A little girl sprains her ankle along the mountainous rocky terrain between her home and her school in Morocco.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that On the Way to School is a 2013 documentary in which four kids from different parts of the world -- Kenya, Morocco, Argentina, and India -- are filmed traveling tremendous lengths over difficult terrain to attend school. Not only should this put things into perspective for kids prone to complaining about going to school, but it also might even humble parents (or grandparents) fond of telling "When I was your age, I walked two miles to school each day" anecdotes. There is some peril -- a little girl sprains her ankle along the mountainous rocky terrain between her home and her school in Morocco, and two boys must run for cover when they fear that a herd of elephants is stampeding toward them. Overall, this documentary shows the difficulties many kids face simply to attend a school, something many families in more developed countries take for granted. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymsbeird June 11, 2021

Humbling Film!

As a 4th and 5th grade teacher, and I've shared this film with my students every year. It's a great way to end the year with an appreciation for the l... Continue reading
Adult Written byDestiny Y. January 2, 2017

Absolutely incredible - perfect for every age.

I cannot give a higher rating for a film. Every kid (and adult) in my opinion, would benefit from this incredible film. It's uplifting but not designed to... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

Jackson is an 11-year-old boy from Kenya who must travel two hours to school with his little brother. Zahira is a 12-year-old girl from Morocco who must travel four hours to school every Monday with her friends. Carlos is an 11-year-old boy from Argentina who rides 18 kilometers to school on horseback with his little sister. And Samuel is a disabled 13-year-old boy in India who is wheeled and carried the four kilometers to school by his two brothers. ON THE WAY TO SCHOOL shows the tremendous challenges and difficulties many kids in remote parts of the globe face simply to attend school and get an education. Whether it's running across open spaces to avoid getting trampled by elephants, finding rides from strangers after spraining ankles on rocky mountainous terrain, or carrying one's brother in a wheelchair through irrigation canals, the situations in this eye-opening documentary should put into perspective something many in the more developed parts of the world take for granted. 

Is it any good?

This eye-opening documentary should provide plenty for families to talk about. While it will most certainly give much-needed perspective to those of us who might complain about our commutes to school or work, what is especially astonishing about On the Way to School is how resilient and determined are these kids who are shown traveling far and treacherous distances to get an education. The challenges and difficulties they endure are almost beyond comprehension for those living in developed countries, and they underscore the problem of access to education so many in developing countries face. 

While this documentary shows the "can-do" spirit of these kids, it only marginally touches on the inherent barrier placed on children and families living in these places where education is not as high of a priority or where kids must work to help provide food and sustenance. An argument could also be made that for all its implications about how it's relatively easy for kids in the developed world to get to and from school, the difficulties of kids trying to attend school in, say, Chicago's toughest neighborhoods could be equally as illuminating and worthy of investigation.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about similarities and differences between the kids in this movie and the kids where you live. Did parts of On the Way to School make you think that kids everywhere in the world seem the same? Where did they seem different? 

  • Think about how you get to and from school. What did you take for granted before seeing this movie? What were some of the difficulties these kids faced? How did they overcome those obstacles?

  • How do the kids in On the Way to School demonstrate curiosity, perseverance, and courage? What about humility and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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