Girls having their mid-day meal in a government school, Bettiah, Bihar, India © Himanshu Khagta / Offset
Resident monks learn the teachings of Buddhism at the Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery © Rachel Leiner / Offset
Esiteti Primary School, outside Amboseli National Park, Kenya © Danita Delimont / Offset
In a phenomenal episode of This American Life called Three Miles, producer Chana Joffe-Walt told the story of a “classroom exchange” that took place between two schools in The Bronx. University Heights High School is a public school; Fieldston is a private school. They are three miles apart, and for the University Heights students, visiting Fieldston and its sprawling campus was a shock. One girl was so overwhelmed by the disparity between her school and Fieldston, where tuition runs around $43,000, that she started crying.
If New York children just a few miles from one another are learning in such vastly different environments, what does school look like 7,000 miles away in Uganda? What about 8,000 in Myanmar? In order to begin to answer this question, we combed through the Offset photography collection to find images that truly capture what classrooms (and the occasional lunchroom) are like on the other side of the world.
Offset Artist Gary S. Chapman spent time in Orissa, India documenting life inside an orphanage for deaf-blind children. Here, they are spared from life on the streets and given a place to learn. The school is run by a pastor named Manohar Nanda, with help from Central India Christian Mission. As it happens, the Indian government provides the biggest free meal program of any country in the world. 120 million children are given mid-day meals of dal, lentils, rice, and vegetables, providing further incentive for parents to send their children to school.
Chapman, primarily a humanitarian photographer, has also visited schools in rural China, where for the first time, a new generation of children is learning how to read. At the end of the day, the pupils are given one task: cleaning up and sweeping to make sure the school is spick and span for classes the next morning.
In Gulu, Uganda, children sit around the chalkboard in sweltering heat, sometimes 110 degrees, and as reported by the Community Action Fund for Women in Africa, most girls only make it to third or fourth grade before dropping out. CAFWA has started an after-school program entitled Girl’s Clubs to encourage families to make the sacrifices to allow their daughters to stay in school and become literate, even if that means less help around the house.
In parts of Myanmar, young children leave the family home to become novice monks at monasteries, where their school curriculum includes religious teachings. They study and play, and in some dormitories, like the ones at Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery, they are permitted to keep cats as pets.
All over the world, children are not only learning how to read and write, but they are also learning about the basics of healthcare and sanitation. Some leave school and go home at the end of the day; for others, school is home. This collection of photographs reveals not only the urgent need for schools in more remote areas but also highlights the tremendous good that can be done by erecting a building, recruiting some teachers, and filling the rooms with the next generation of international citizens.
Lunchtime at a small home and school for deaf and blind children in Orissa, India © Gary S. Chapman / Offset
Students in a rural school line up for lunch, Sichuan, China © Gary S. Chapman / Offset
Woman teaching students letters on a chalkboard, Paicho, Uganda © Brian Hodges / Offset
Students at a monk school are playing in the school yard, Mandalay, Myanmar © Me Studio / Aurora Photos
School lunchroom, Managua, Nicaragua © Craig Watson / Offset
Students outside a school, Colombo, Sri Lanka © Grant Faint / Offset
Teacher going over a language lesson in African classroom © Greatstock / Offset
School children play a game of football with an old Portuguese mansion in the background in Margao, India © Aaron Joel Santos / Offset
Students in a Jamaican classroom © Kyle La Mere / Offset
Woman teaches a student in Kentane, Eastern Cape, South Africa © Graham de Lacy / Greatstock
Offset is a curated collection of commercial and editorial photography and illustration from award-winning artists around the world. Photographers who wish to join the Offset artist community are welcome to apply here.