Paralyzed teacher devoted to rural education for four decades

By Ma Chi | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2019-01-10 14:27
Ren Zongyu teaches his students in the classroom. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Ren Zongyu, a paralyzed teacher, has devoted his life to educating children in a mountainous village for nearly four decades, Henan-based Dahe Daily reported.

Born in 1963, Ren was afflicted with polio when he was young, a disease that severely restricted his movement.

Ren became a primary school teacher in Tanggou village, Henan province when he was 18. Tanggou is an impoverished village deep in the mountains – it is a 3-hour-plus drive from the city of Pingdingshan, under which the village is administered, through winding roads.

With most young people having left the village for jobs in cities, a lot of children have been left behind in the village of more than 500 residents.

"I have never left the depths of the mountain due to my physical disability. I am happy to help the children here go out of the mountain," Ren said.

Over the past 38 years, more than 40 students in the village have been admitted to university thanks to Ren's efforts.

Despite his handicap, Ren has been striving to improve his teaching methods. In the early years of his teaching career, he walked dozens of miles to take continuing education courses. In 2000, he received a degree in Chinese Language and Literature at a normal college in Pingdingshan.

"If I am to give students a cup of water, I need to hold a bucket of water," Ren said. "In the internet age, a teacher is the 'water source' who needs to keep studying."

As an enthusiastic teacher constantly exploring better teaching methods, Ren leads students into the wild to study nature and teaches the children to help their families through practical labor using what they learn at school.

In a flag-raising ceremony held in Ren’s primary school, the teacher and all of his current students participated. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

He also endeavors to narrow the gap in teaching facilities between the primary school and its urban counterparts – the school library has been enriched by donations from his own collection, and he is preparing to bring multimedia education into the classrooms by connecting them with the internet.

Over the years, Ren has overcome many obstacles in his life.

Two decades ago, he lost the chance to be a formally employed teacher because of his medical treatment. After he got married, his monthly salary was less than 100 yuan ($14.7), not enough to support his family. Today, he remains a temporary teacher, though his monthly income has risen to more than 1,000 yuan.

In 2002, all rural temporary teachers were asked to be dismissed in a reform measure. Ren retained his job with the help of villagers and local government, but lost his already meager income.

He was so hard-up that one year he had to write Spring Festival couplets and sell them to make ends meet.

Ren said his biggest wish is to be formally employed before retirement, so he could have the associated benefits.

Recently Ren has been nominated as a candidate of an award program for rural teachers established by IT mogul Jack Ma. The award honors dedicated rural teachers. If Wang makes the final list, he will receive 100,000 yuan in prize money for three consecutive years.

Qi Xin contributed to the story.

Ren Zongyu walks with aid of a bamboo crutch, followed by his students. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

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