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September 21st, 2009
Time for School Series

“It’s the human stories of overcoming adversity that jump out at one in Time for School…. Wide Angle’s documentaries are about the real world — the world beyond reality TV and Hollywood excess.”
–Canwest News

“As heart wrenching as it is informative…. You’ll have a pit in your stomach by the end of the show.”

WIDE ANGLE’s unprecedented, award-winning 12-year documentary project, Time for School, returns in 2009 with visits to seven classrooms in seven countries to offer a glimpse into the lives of seven extraordinary children who are struggling to get what nearly all American kids take for granted: a basic education. We started filming in 2002, watching as kids first entered school in Afghanistan, Benin, Brazil, India, Japan, Kenya and Romania, many despite great odds. Several years later, in 2006, we returned to film an update — and now, three years later, we travel to check in on our young teenagers who are making the precarious transition to middle school. Among the highlights: in Afghanistan we reunite with 16-year-old Shugufa, who resolutely remains in school despite the Taliban’s recent acid attacks on young women her age. “If they continue attacking schools, our country won’t progress. Without an education you can’t get anywhere,” says Shufuga, whose own education was delayed when her family lived in a refugee camp in Pakistan during years when the Taliban ruled her country. We also visit the biggest slum in Nairobi, Kenya, where 15-year-old Joab’s mother has died and his father has abandoned the family. We watch as, incredibly, Joab manages to stay at the top of his class while also raising and feeding his two younger siblings. And in the blazing desert of Rajasthan, India, we encounter Neeraj, 15, only to learn that she has been unable to realize her dream of making it to 10th grade: since our last visit her night school has closed, and she now helps support her family by grazing the livestock full-time while her brothers continue their education.

These children’s stories put a human face on the shocking fact that more than 75 million children are currently out of school; of these, two thirds are girls. One in four children in developing countries does not complete five years of basic education, and there are nearly one billion illiterate adults — one-sixth of the world’s people. WIDE ANGLE plans to continue revisiting all the children, and their peers and families, through 2015, the year they should graduate — and, not coincidentally, the U.N.’s target date for achieving universal education, a Millennium Development goal endorsed by all 191 members of the United Nations.

While each child in Time for School 3 has a unique story, taken together their lives tell an epic tale, shedding light on one of the most urgent and under-reported stories of our time.

  • Deanna Jordan

    My students and I anxiously await the next (2009)broacdcast. This series is an excellent source of insight, information and perspective. Students in urban Los Angeles found it fascinating. Thank you to the producers for creating this valuable series.

  • Marcia Annenberg

    Thank God, you are back in the news..real news…

  • Arlene Campbell

    Hello all at Wide Angle. I have been a fan of this program for quite some time…. and Aaron Brown …. as a ‘host’, is just superb! I live in Canada, and have written to PBS re WIDE ANGLE… a couple of times. Therefore, I am wondering — will WIDE ANGLE return for the Fall Season?… and will Mr. Brown be it’s Host?
    Thanks to everyone at PBS… for superb programming.
    I am a 75 yr. old female…. and I must say, .. PBS .. is my favorite source of programming.
    Ms. Campbell, Maple Ridge, B.C. Camada :)

  • Emily

    Sounds fascinating. Is there any way we can purchase this program?

  • Mitchell Teplitsky

    Cogratulations Tamara! I can’t wait to watch. And I will spread the word on the web.

  • Juliana Constantinescu

    I have seen the series for the first time on September 2. I am a teacher in Wisconsin, US and I was impressed with your terrific job on presenting these children that are dreaming to learn, to go to school. There is any way we can help? I am thinking about talking with my students and sending books,everything we would be able to put together to help those kids in any way we can. How can we start this?

  • Lee MacPherson

    Wow, just contrast the experiences of the kids from Japan and India. It’s totally different. And the results show (for better or for worse…).

  • Twee Bui

    thank you for a superb series on global education and disparities. The depicted injustice, denial, lack of opportunities are signs and symptoms of larger societal maladies–poverty, prejudice, oppression, bigotry. Before we send books and money, let’s also work on economic development and the political process. We won’t achieve the MDGs, end war/conflicts, enjoy peace/prosperity, stop hunger until we allow every single child on this earth the opportunity to go to school!

  • Jamie Van Roekel

    I would love it if my children could become pen pals with some of these children! Can you help with that?
    And thank you so much for the insightful program!!!

  • Daniella Maciel de Souza

    This is an excellent series! They’re so inspirational and educational! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE these shows!!! I love learning about different cultures, so this is the closest I can get without actually traveling. Plus, watching how children of other countries live makes me appreciate what I do have and motivates me to work hard in school. Do you sell these “Time for School” series on DVD? If so, I would love to purchase them! PBS, keep them coming!

  • Heidi

    I watched this last night…amazing, eye-opening and thoughtful. Every school aged child (and adult!) in america should have to watch this and realize how lucky they have it here in comparison. Well done!

  • Lascelles Thompson

    I saw this program last night and was deeply touched by the story of Neeraj; a young Indian girl who dreams of finishing school and becoming a teacher. Is there anyway I can donate to help her achieve her dream?

  • Trudy Bryant

    Last night was the first time i ever watched the program. I was so hurt that Neeraj had to choose the way that she did. I want to help. I dropped out of school myself at seventeen. I returned recieved my ged,and am currently attending college to become a special ed teacher. At the age of twenty eigth i am set on my goals and will achieve them this time. I want to tell Neeja never settle for less, and alway follow her dreams even if it is later in life.

  • Duk Kim

    Amazing show – I watched the show with my 12 year old daughter. Thank you for opening my daughter’s eye. How can I purchase this DVD?

  • BEMiller

    My heart aches for Neeja. To see her have to leave due to circumstances beyond her control.

  • Bobbi HArewood

    I watch with my two boys 6&7years old. They had so many questions. My 2nd grader really walked away being thankful for his school and wanted to help the children. Thank You for such a great look into other children’s lives and the inspiration to help.

  • Carol Davidek-Waller

    I give this production mixed reviews. The ability to look into the lives of children around the world, albeit tightly edited and somewhat slanted, was interesting.
    The first segment about Afghanistan sounded more like Pentagon propaganda than documentary journalism.
    The problems in Aghanistan are much more complicated than just the Taliban. US/British foreign policy have a great deal to do with the tragedy of Afghanistan. The war which was glossed over is not the fault of the Afghans but more recently of the US who invaded and have occupied it for years, killing many civilians, destroying what little infrastructure was present and propping up a corrupt government. US policy in Afghanistan serves to strengthen extremist groups like the Taliban.
    Far too many children in the US grow up in slums similar to those in Brazil, end their education prematurely, end up in the drug trade or in prostitution.
    US trade policy and predatory US based multinational corporations play a enormous role in producing the conditions shown in the film yet not a word was said.
    The US should spend more time addressing their own domestic issues, humanizing their foreign policy and controlling those economic forces that produce such wide spread waste and suffering.
    What on earth is a previously approved comment?

  • Peggy Cordell

    As a teacher-librarian, I have been asked when this program will re-air (especially Part 1, which aired on Sept. 2nd). I don’t currently see it on your schedule. And, if it doesn’t re-air this season, I join the others who requested it become available on DVD for purchase.

  • D

    I think this is a fantastic series. I find it endlessly interesting and I think every child in America should see it.
    I am rooting for all the young girls around the world who have to fight for their right to go to school. It makes me ashamed to think of all the times I disparaged my own education….

  • Sarah Riley-Land

    how can I sponsor Joab?

  • david

    what an amazing show, not only it has provided an insight into a world sometimes we forget exists, it also reminds us that we need to help and make a difference for so many children that have to endure terrible difficulties in life.

  • Linda

    Is it possible to bring Joab and his siblings here…for adoption or simply for opportunities? My heart aches for these beautiful children.

  • Stacy Clark

    What an amazing series. I have a particular connection with the students from Africa. Having been privileged to serve there on a mission trip has truly changed my life. The children struggle and want nothing but to go to school.. I am sponsoring 2 children. What you see in their lives is absolutely true. They are amazing. I too though, how can I sponsor Joab and his siblings? There is no comparison to life here. Thank you for the series.. How can we buy DVD?

  • Laura Stone

    I watched part of a segment tonight and wish my 5-year-old daughter was still awake to see this. This is the reality of the world outside of our suburban bubble. I have participated in mission work and medical relief in several countries and yet I still come back to my home and resume my life and struggles and mostly forget the bleak reality of life and the constant struggle for survival and the hope for something better that you portrayed so clearly. I want my children to be exposed to this and to have a hand in helping others. Can you please post information for those of us who would like to be involved or contribute to the children in this program or to programs that are already active in these communities? That would be greatly appreciated. Joab and his siblings especially touched my soul and I go to bed tonight with the urge to do something to ease the burden these children are facing.

  • jeni pope

    as an american 1st grade teacher, i was sobbing at the end of this series. feeling stressed over the requirements of No Child Left Behind i realized tonight that i am truly giving the gift of education. i am so lucky to be an American teacher and my students are so lucky to get a free, great education. i wish TH BEST of luck to all the children i have watched grow. KEEP GOING TO SCHOOL!!!!!!

  • Alicia

    I agree with many others on this site…is there any way that we can do more for the children in this series? Personally, if I could do something to help Joab support his family then I’d like to do so! It’s difficult enough to support two kids myself, let alone at the age of 15!!

  • Erika

    I stress over my two children in grade school. After watching this (my 6th grader was mesmerized) I am overwhelmed at the thoughts of 35 mil children in Africa who are not in school.
    Joab and his siblings were such an encouragement to me. Joab asking Neeraj in Benin how she felt when her father died and then encouraging her to stay in school no matter what to help her mother just made me cry that children have to do this. What a selfless child. Where did he learn this?
    Is there any way of smacking Joab’s father for taking the food meant for his children? The gall to say “WE HELP EACH OTHER” What a selfish man! It was heartbreaking to see a grown man capable of work stealing from his children whom he has abandoned, while they do their homework. I look forward to seeing the outcome of this in years to come. Congratulations to Margherite who was doing all she could to protect Neeraj and encourage her as much as she could. Thank you, from Alaska, for bringing us this program. I appreciate your form of “reality TV”.
    I will still worry about my children but now have a broader, more realistic base to do it in.

  • Ken Okoth

    The Children of Kibera Foundation offers sponsorships for elementary school and secondary school to orphans and vulnerable children like Joab within the Kibera slums of Nairobi. We are a 501c3 organization incorporated in Washington DC. Check out our website at or email . We can use all the support we can get to make a difference for these kids.

  • Steve

    This series is FANTASTIC. Is there any way to purchase them on DVD? I am a teacher and I would love to show this to my students.

  • judy reynolds

    I have never been so moved by a program as I was by this one and the story of Joab’s fight to survive in the Kibera slums of Kenya. While all the stories were heart wrenching, I couldn’t sleep thinking of how Joab and his siblings were abandoned by their father after their mother’s death and the fact that when he visited them he took food from them. I’ve never commented on a TV program website before but I am compelled to try to help these three children. Is there any way I can give this family something or do something to improve their lives a little? I already donate to charitable organizations but I want to directly do something for this family.

  • Stephanie

    If anyone is interested in sponsoring secondary school for a girl in Benin, please visit or email

  • Lori

    I was deeply moved by all the children and their daily struggles and delicate situations! We as people cant help ourselves & take the simples things for granted. Having a realistic program like Wide Angle is perfect reminder not too! I also acknowledge a lot of the misfortune that is happing around the world is man made & politics & greed play a big role. These issues and more need attention to get to the root of the real problem but in the mean time if people can help one child at a time or one situation at a time why not? Helping one child is better than not helping any! I aslo feel this program should be mandatory for students to watch all across the world. Nothing but good could come out of exposing them to the reality. To let them see how priviliaged they are, to hopefully help them appreciate what they have. And hopefully it would touch many students and encourge them when they grow up to make a difference. Educating all children/adults is the key to a better life all around the world…

    I would also like information on how to contact Joab directly, thanks!

  • MargY

    I enjoyed watching part 1 & 2. I’m so glad bits of the previous times were included.
    I loved all the children but three especially caught my attention.
    The girl in India, Neeraj, seemed so enamored with school and studying everything but without her parents supporting her efforts, I guess she is not destined to realize her dream of being a teacher.

    Jefferson, the Brazilian boy, seems to soak up everything and I hope despite his principal and teacher holding him back a year for his own good, I hope he does continue with his studies even though he may be bored repeating a grade he was successful in passing.

    Joab in Kenya… I marvel at his maturity and resilience. I am sad that his mother fell ill and passed away. It’s awful that the neighbors didn’t want anything to do with them because they thought of the disease she might have been ill with. I hope Joab continues to excel in his studies and fulfills his dream of becoming an mechanical engineer.

  • Wide Angle

    For those of you who have expressed interest in helping the children in the film, please visit our “How You Can Help” page:
    There are organizations listed in the Kenya and Benin sections that work specifically with the kids in the film from those countries, Joab and Nanavi.

  • Kate Castro

    Just watched this program last night and was entranced! Brilliant concept! Bravo, need to buy this for myself!

  • Diane

    Wide Angle:

    Please, please let me/us know where we can purchase a DVD of this wonderful program… hopefully, a DVD that encapsulates all the series from start to end (or to part 3). I want to give this DVD as a gift to my cousin who is a teacher on the west of Chicago. I think this program would provide such a great opportunity for her students to see how other children in other parts of the world are struggling to get an education.

    thank you!

  • Wide Angle

    Unfortunately Time for School 3 is not available on DVD, but the full episode can be viewed online at:

    Some WIDE ANGLE programs, including the original Time for School and Back to School, are available on DVD for educational use only and can be purchased from Films Media Group:

  • Karen Weiner

    Kudos to Wide Angle for the wonderful work they have done once again in ‘Time for School 3′ and in the entire series! I am a teacher on Long Island & the advisor of Kenya Krew, and I wanted to jump in to respond to some of the wonderful responses from so many of you. If you would like to assist the children of Ayany Primary School (Joab’s school), my students and I would welcome your donations to our project!

    I’m thrilled to see that so many people were spurred to action by Joab’s story — it is truly heart-wrenching, and he is an incredible inspiration.

    The group my students and I have started, Kenya Krew, is aimed at building a school library at Ayany Primary School (as many of you have read on Wide Angle’s website). We have raised about $8000 toward our goal of $15,000, but some of that money has been used to replace the desks in the 7th grade classroom at Ayany, and to create a temporary Reading Room for the students until the library is constructed. Therefore, we may actually end up having to raise more than the original $15,000 — we are in the process of reassessing the amount.

    We have been working closely with the principal of Joab’s school, and as you can see on the website, we have developed tran-Atlantic friendships with the Ayany children through our pen pal activities. While donations to Kenya Krew would not go directly to Joab and his siblings, they would benefit all of the children of Ayany, many of whose stories are equally compelling and inspirational. If you are interested in contributing to our Kenya Krew project, you may send your donation to my attention at Lawrence Middle School, 195 Broadway, Lawrence, NY 11559. Checks should be made to Lawrence Middle School, with “Kenya Krew” written in the Memo line. We wire money directly from our account to Joab’s school, so that we are assured that the money ends up where it is intended.

    Ken, your organization sounds like it is doing wonderful work — I would certainly be interested in connecting with you by phone or email to discuss further our shared interest in working with the children of Kibera.

    Thank you all for your interest in Joab, his siblings and all of the children of Kibera. Please feel free to respond to my posting if you have any questions regarding Kenya Krew, and of course we welcome your donations to our cause!

    Best wishes to all,
    Karen Weiner, Kenya Krew advisor (NY)

  • Karen Weiner

    I just wanted to add one more avenue for communication with Joab … I notice that many people have posted an interest in being able to send Joab a letter to let him know how compelling his story is for you and what an inspiration he is as a person who perseveres in the face of huge obstacles. My students and I write letters to our friends at Ayany Primary School, and I would be happy to include some additional letters to Joab (or to the children of Ayany in general — or to Joab’s sister/brother) in our next parcel of letters. If you would like to send such communication, please send them to my attention at the address listed in my previous posting. I do read all letters that we send, so as long as you are comfortable with that, please share your thoughts with Joab and his family/school mates. I am sure it will bring smiles to their faces to know that people here have been inspired by their stories. Thank you!

  • laurel stone

    Wide Angle
    I am not wealthy, but I would like to do something to help Joab and Nanavi. Can you please contact me so that this might be arranged. Thank you so very much.

  • Silas j. teixeira

    What a wounderful educational show!!!!!!! I’m from Brazil, but I live in u.s.a. for 25 years.
    Please! how can I contact Mr. Brown’s office? Help me please.
    Thank you!!!

  • Nina

    After catching some of this program (#3) I was quickly hooked. The children’s lives are mesmerizing. It reminded me of what I learned at my a MA program in International Education. I agree with Lori that this should required viewing. It’s the 7up series meets International Education. Keep up the good work, PBS!

    For those of you interested in helping similar children all over the world, there are lots of organizations that you can volunteer though and not just by donating money. Instead of taking another vacation at the beach, consider spending a week or two volunteer to work with children in another country.

  • Hetu Parekh

    I just happened to catch “Time for School 3″ by chance. What an amazing hour! Thank you PBS and Wide Angle. Now I need to watch 1 and 2!

  • isabel

    Dear Joab, I think you are a wonderful person and that you will fulfill your dream. I am hoping that the producers of wide angle will find a way so we can help you directly and to help your school. I would like to send supplies directly to the school and to help you pay your education. I will certainly donate to the other organizations but I hope that there is a way to help you directly.

  • Anne Summers

    I am a middle school teacher and am very interested in purchasing the Wide Angle: Back to School series. Please let me know if the series is for sale and for how much. Mahalo from Hawaii!

  • Wide Angle

    Hi Anne —

    Thanks for your interest in the Time for School series.

    Some WIDE ANGLE programs, including the original Time for School and Back to School, are available on DVD for educational use only and can be purchased from Films Media Group:

    Unfortunately Time for School 3 is not available on DVD at the moment, but the full episode can be viewed online at:

  • Ken Patterson

    This installment is so timely as the world coalesces around creating a plan to put all kids in school around the globe. Organizations like RESULTS, Global Campaign for Education, ONE Campaign, FIFA and the World Cup, 1Goal, and others are pushing for Education for All via creation of a Global Fund for Education. US Leadership by President Obama will be key in breathing life into this new tool. I encourage all of us to mobilize students, soccer players, and ourselves to contact the President on this issue:

  • Anselme HOUNKPATIN

    Hello I thank you for collaboration. CONGRATULATION TO all the team of PBS. Je wish best things to Judy, Tamara and Herve Cohen.
    Live to the exhange between USA and Benin. Anselme HOUNKPATIN.

  • Dee

    I think this series is absolutely amazing! We just got done watching 3/4 of the latest episode in my liberal studies class at my college and all I have to say is WOW. The stark contrast between the countries as well as the education of males and females is mindboggling. Education is key!

    Well done Wide Angle :)

  • Carolyn

    I would love to purchase a copy of this series to use with my high school students… is it for sale anywhere?

  • shahr

    Dear Carolyn,

    Thank you for your interest in WIDE ANGLE’s Time for School Series. DVDs for educational use can be purchased from Films Media Group, at

  • Isabel

    Dear Karen wainer,

    I was wondering if you can send me your phone or email to make a donation. We only have your address but would like to learnt more about your effort with the library.

    best, Isabel (

  • mvm71

    My heart was crushed seeing Neeja leave, she had no choice but to leave. She;s in a situation beyond her control. I am a teacher here, you inspired me to think of fund raising activities that will involve my students so we could help even in small ways.

  • Dr. Judy Lindamood

    I have been using the dvd on line to show my ECE community college students these children as part of a project looking at international child care and the rights of children. When will these three segments be available for purchase as the on line feed often is interrupted and won’t go forward to play. Very frustrating to the class. How might I purchase?

    Judy Lindamood
    Dept Chair, ECE/EDU/HSV
    Bunker Hill Community College

  • Jana Rey

    I would love to purchase a copy of this series. Is it possible to purchase it?


    the rate of achievment of is low in PNG resulting in many overgrown adults in institution. i.e ag of 30-40 apart from the non school leaver

  • Elizabeth

    Since the videos are no longer available online, is there a way to purchase them? I own Back to School and have shown it countless times to student groups. Would love to have either Time for School 1 or 3?

  • Ivy Lanai

    My class just finished watching Time for School 3 and I, personally, would love to know when the 2012 filming is planned. Since it is done every three years leading to 2015, I am very eager for the year after 2011.

    Have you any idea? Or am I not to ask?
    Or was that bit of information elsewhere that I amn’t aware of?

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