Teachers visit homes to instruct disabled students

By MA JINGNA in Lanzhou and ZHOU HUIYING | China Daily | Updated: 2021-11-23 10:11
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A teacher from Mahe town in Longxi county, Gansu province, gives a lesson to a child enrolled in special education service at the student's home. [Photo/From CUI XIANGLONG for CHINA DAILY]

At the beginning of September, Wang Jiamin was happy to start her new semester as a third grade student, even though she had to take her lessons in bed.

The 11-year-old girl, who lives in Hujiawa village in Longxi county, Gansu province, has been fragile since she was a baby. After suffering several fractures in her legs not long after birth, she was diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta, more commonly known as brittle bone disease, when she was one year old.

To avoid further injuries, she had to be very careful and wasn't able to walk any more. As a result, she couldn't start primary school when she turned eight in 2018.

"To support the family, my wife and I both had to work, and we had little time to teach her at home, but we hoped she could receive an education just like other children," said Wang Yongliang, Wang Jiamin's father. "Fortunately, in the spring of 2019, I got news that there were volunteer teachers in our county who could visit families with severely disabled children and teach them at home."

He immediately submitted an application to the Longxi education bureau.

To ensure the education rights and interests of severely disabled children unable to attend school, China launched a special education service system in 2015.

"We established a series of guidelines on door-to-door teaching services to ensure smooth implementation," said Ji Yu, deputy director of the county's education bureau. "And we selected a group of teachers with a strong sense of responsibility and extensive practical experience to carry out the work."

Over the years, the bureau has held four door-to-door teaching training courses for more than 300 teachers, and so far, they have taught more than 170 children.

Pu Ruiyin, a 56-year-old Chinese teacher from Yaping Primary School in Longxi, has been visiting Wang once a week since April 2019.

"At the time, I was teaching at the primary school in Hujiawa, and Wang was the only severely disabled child in the village who could neither attend regular classes, nor go to a special education school," he said. "When we received word that she had submitted an application for the door-to-door service, a math teacher and I immediately volunteered."

Pu started with first grade materials and recalled that their first meeting wasn't smooth. "She was very nervous and wouldn't let us get close," he said. "We never gave up and insisted on regular visits. Things got better after about a month. She began to smile when we came into her room."

It soon became clear that Wang was eager to learn. "She is clever and industrious," Pu said. "In the textbook for third graders, there are lengthy texts that use some unusual Chinese characters. I didn't think she would be able to read them, so I would read for her and then explain the words and the content."

However, Pu soon found that the girl could read the texts by herself, and there were few words she did not know. She told Pu that her parents and elder brother would help her preview the texts before his visits.

Pu was also surprised that Wang's academic performance was better than some of the students in his class, and that she was interested in crafts. "When we discovered that she had an interest in handiwork, I brought her a box of Plasticine," he said. "When I visited a week later, she showed me colorful models she had made of animals and flowers."

Before the new autumn semester, Hujiawa Primary School was shut down, so Pu and the math teacher were assigned to the primary school in Yaping village, 9 kilometers away.

"Now, it takes us longer to get to Wang, but we keep visiting and hope to help her finish all her courses," Pu said.

Her father said after several years of medical treatment, the girl's condition has improved.

"The doctors told me that my daughter would start to get better around the age of 10, and we are actively cooperating with the treatment, hoping she can recover and have the chance to receive an education at school with other children in future," Wang Yongliang said.

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