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Elite univ. students volunteer to teach in less-developed west China

MAY . 26 2011

Peking University, May 26, 2011: A group of 17 postgraduate students from China's elite Peking University (PKU) will spend one year as teaching volunteers in the country's remote and underdeveloped western regions starting in August.

This will be the 13th such team that the university, famed for excellency in humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, health science, and engineering, has sent student volunteers to teach for one year in Tibet, Qinghai, Yunnan, Xinjiang, Ningxia, Shanxi, and Henan of central and western China since 1999. 

Banner of the 13th PKU graduate volunteer teaching service group (File photo) 

Today, the economic and social development in western China lags far behind the rest of the country. Due to poverty, quality education is difficult for many people in the western areas to receive.

Four years ago, when Sun Ke volunteered as a geography teacher at a middle school in Tibet, he was shocked to see that many of the students in his class could not afford a map costing 4.8 yuan ($0.74).

He asked the students to each buy a map for geography studies, but it turned out only three students purchased the map.

"The kids lowered their heads, silently, when I asked them why," Sun recalled. The fact is that the poverty of the students was more severe and beyond his imagination.

"I have heard stories about poverty of kids in hilly areas on TV before, but I was really saddened when confronted with such a fact myself," he said.

Sun decided to buy the maps for the students with his own money. "When I walked into the classroom with a bundle of maps, they broke into tears, and so did I," Sun said.



PKU volunteers in west China

During talking with Xinhua, many volunteers said the one-year of teaching provides not only an insight into how the school children cope with poverty, but also an opportunity to learn from practices and the masses.

Yang Tianhu, 25, a typical member of the 1980s generation who could not cook and seldom did laundry, is now a teaching volunteer at a middle school in Datong County of Qinghai Province.

The work, firstly, could educate one on how to take care of his daily life, such as cooking and laundry, in a rural school with poor facilities, Yang said.

Besides, he paid visits to many students' homes and talked to residents in hilly villages.

"Finally, I came to understand why people say that one can only feel the truth about our society through walking into the people's homes at grassroots levels," Yang said.

Yang said he was deeply touched by a personal story. A girl student from a poor family was left alone to shoulder the daily burden of pig-feeding, cooking and laundry after her parents went to the cities as migrant workers.

Chinese officials have called on the country's youth, especially those who just joined the labor force after graduation from colleges, to consider exploring their careers at grassroots positions and in rural areas.

Hailing the volunteer program, PKU President Zhou Qifeng said the students have learnt a lot through working in the western regions.

In a letter dated May 10, Chinese President Hu Jintao expressed satisfaction with the work of student volunteers from PKU after receiving a letter from the 18 volunteers who are now teaching in Tibet, Qinghai, Yunnan, and Xinjiang.

"I am very satisfied with the progress you have made," Hu said, adding that the PKU volunteer project is an effective way to help young students learn from practice and the masses.

Hu said he hope the university could continue the practice, encouraging more young students to grow up to become the backbone of the country.

"It is a big surprise and a great honor," said Zhang Zhendong, who is among the volunteers who wrote the letter to Hu on April 19 to report their work.

"We realize the value of our work and feel the responsibility after reading the letter from Hu," said Zhang, now teaching in Qinghai.

Excited about the letter, Zhao Rui, a member of the volunteers team who will start teaching in western regions in some two months, said he will strive to do better and learn more during the work.

Zhao had served as a volunteer teacher at a rural primary school in Gansu Province two years ago when he was a junior with a bachelor degree program at PKU.

"I just can't forget the eyes of the school kids," said Zhao, referring to those children in his class in Gansu. "With President Hu's words in my heart... I believe no matter how hard it will be, I will surely do it better."


Extended Reading:

President Hu writes in support of volunteer teaching service

Chinese grads urged to go west for jobs



Edited by: Arthars

Source: Xinhua