When in the 1960s, the Communist government announced its plan to build one thousand schools to celebrate the one-thousandth anniversary of the Polish state, Halladin travelled to the countryside to examine the circumstances behind poor school results among the children of Polish peasants. In her film she showed that despite the legal requirement for all children over the age of seven to attend school, the classrooms in the countryside were nearly empty during the times when farming work was the most labour intensive.
Instead of going to school, children of Polish peasants were required by their parents to help in the fields. This is where we first meet the kids in Halladin’s film. In the opening sequence boys and girls herd cows, dig potatoes and work along with their mothers in the fields. The voice-over narrator informs that some of them skip around fifty or sixty days of school in every year.
Then we see a sequence of talking heads. The filmmaker appears to interview the same children’s parents, a few fathers and one mother. They passionately defend their position, explaining that with no help from the children they wouldn’t raise the crop. After we hear an off-screen question: ‘So what do you think will be the future of your child?’, one of the fathers chooses to stay silent, others follow suit.
We soon learn that many of the parents are illiterate and therefore see no value in education. The voice-over explains the high rate of absenteeism can also result from the poor organisation of work in the fields and the lack of mechanised equipment.
The countryside population is represented in the documentary as traditional and conservative. Often neglected by the government, people in the filmed village oppose any innovation or progress, be it in education or mechanised agriculture.
Halladin concludes that the new schools will stay empty just like the one which her camera has visited. She implies that unless some training is provided for the parents, the new generation of Polish peasants will replicate the conservatism of their backward-looking mothers and fathers.