School of Hope follows the children of the Oulad Boukais Tribe as they have to balance education and familial duties. A number of kids, with the eldest being 13, are attempting to learn in a place with limited resources. They all share one classroom with one teacher trying to teach the young ones, who are all at different levels of education.
Although director Mohamed El Aboudi’s documentary is subtitled, they are almost not needed. The camera captures more than words ever could when trying to relate what life is like in this particular region of the Middle East. School of Hope defines the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” There is close to no green life anywhere, with each house being made of clay, covered in lime, and surrounded by a sea of dirt and mud. Travel to the next town is done on horseback and is a journey of many miles back and forth. Resources are very limited, so families often have to trade for food, water, and oil. This can lead to tension between the families when a trade offer seems one-sided.
There are some moments of shock and feeling helpless when watching these children have to live the way they do. During one trip, the adults in the tribe give some of the boys and girls liquified clay in order to keep them from dying from thirst. It is quite heartbreaking to watch.
“…follows the children of the Oulad Boukais Tribe as they have to balance education and familial duties.”
Going back to the subtitles, when it is included, you do hear/read what the thoughts of all the family members are. Learning how much the children would rather be educated than to fall into what seems to be a family cycle of dropping out of school to help secure provisions helps you understand where the minds of the kids are. They want more for themselves and see education as a way to have a better future. You can also see that the adults often see the present as more important than the future. That is why they believe that school will do nothing for their family but set them back because they are not home to help care for the livestock or tend to other duties.
Not only is there a clash in age, but there are also times when gender roles clash. The tribe believes the woman should be taking care of the home while men work more on providing for their family. One father believes that since his daughter has reached puberty, there is no reason for her to go to school. This is obviously wrong for many reasons, but it shows how different cultures are when it comes to gender roles and oppression, not only when it comes to gender but also generationally.
School of Hope is a very powerful documentary in many ways. It serves as a glimpse of how tough things are in another part of the globe. But the filmmaker offers hope for the future of our world, knowing that there is as much willpower as there is eagerness from the younger generations to better themselves.