Extreme Homework

Even when disaster strikes, students around the world try to keep up with their assignments.
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Every time there's a disaster—flooding, earthquake, war, massive power outage—you can expect to see certain types of photographs. Leveled homes, piles of rubble, injured bodies, crying children. Images of destruction. But there's also a more hopeful image that photographers tend to capture in these terrible moments: children doing their homework. 

Cassandra Medina does homework in a hotel room in Greeley, Colorado, after flooding displaced her family from their home last year. (Brennan Linsley/AP Images)

 

A boy does his homework in a displaced-persons' settlement near Cartagena, Colombia. (Andrew Winning/Reuters)

 

A student in Tirana, Albania does her homework by candlelight during a power outage in 2007. (Arben Celi/Reuters)

 

Cristhian Rosales, 12, completes her homework during a blackout in Managua, Nicaragua. (Ariel Leon/Reuters)

 

A student does his homework in Lushan county, Sichuan province, China, after an earthquake hit the area last year. (Reuters)

 

Mounzer, 14, does his homework along a street due to an electricity shortage in the Duma neighborhood of Damascus last year. (Bassam Khabieh/Reuters)

It's not just students who remain committed to education, even in difficult circumstances. This teacher graded his students' papers in a displaced-persons' camp:

A teacher marks students' homework at a camp for displaced Chadians near the Sudanese border in 2008. (Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters)

These images are a reminder of the many roles that education can play in a child's life. Learning offers the promise of a better future. And school—with its procedures and assignments and deadlines—can provide a sense of structure and stability amid chaos.

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Eleanor Barkhorn is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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