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7 Stories from Classrooms Around the World

By Susan Harris

It’s back-to-school season in the northern hemisphere, and even those of us who are no longer students can feel the fall offers a fresh start and new opportunities for knowledge. We’re refreshing our own ideas of education with these scenes from classrooms around the world.

1. Senegal 

On the Senegalese island of Niodior, an elementary-school teacher gives a poor child the French language and the rest of the world in Fatou Diome’s The Belly of the Atlantic.

Image: Students at an elementary school in the Yoff district of Senegal. Public domain.

2. Bangladesh 

Preteens in Bangladesh strike back at an abusive teacher in Muhammed Zafar Iqbal’s “Rusha.”

Image: Student at the Unique Child Learning Center in Mirpur-Dhaka. Wikimedia Commons.

3. Iraq

A thirty-year-old political activist in Baghdad is sent to teach high school in his grandmother’s hometown in a scene from Najem Wali’s Kumait.

Image: Student at a primary school in the Bayaa District Baghdad. Wikimedia Commons.

4. Czechoslovakia 

During World War II, a teacher polices forbidden language in a German–speaking Czech town in an excerpt from Jakupa Katalpa’s Germans.

Image: Students taking a scholarship exam in 1940. Wikimedia Commons.


Schoolchildren are bemused by their Cuban “comrade teachers,” revolutionaries who came to Luanda during the Angolan Civil War, in Ondjaki’s “Comrade António and the Cuban Teachers.”

Image: Adult literacy students in Luanda, Angola. Wikimedia Commons.

6. Mexico

A seven-year-old kleptomaniac disrupts a Mexican classroom and her family in Aura Estrada’s A Failed Journey.

Image: Students posing in front of Inuit artist Bill Nasogaluak’s scultpure in Monterrey, Mexico. Wikimedia Commons.

7. Japan 

A Japanese astrophysics professor devotes the last day of the term to proof that “science loses all meaning when it strays from humanity” in Natsuki Ikezawa’s The A Team.

Image: Company information session for new graduates in Japan. Wikimedia Commons.

Published Sep 9, 2016   Copyright 2016 Susan Harris

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