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China / People

Grandma returns to school, to teach love

By An Baijie and Sun Ruisheng in Taiyuan (China Daily) Updated: 2012-05-22 08:05

Thirteen-year-old Chen Zhengshan has a special "classmate", his 63-year-old grandmother who has accompanied him to every class for the last three years.

Grandma returns to school, to teach love

Chen Pei'e, 63, helps her epileptic grandson Chen Zhengshan study at home in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, on May 11. Sun Ruisheng / China Daily

Chen Pei'e has been taking care of her grandson, who suffers from epilepsy, for nearly 10 years.

The boy, a fifth-grade student at Bingzhoulu Primary School in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, developed symptoms of epilepsy when he was about three.

His mother left the family several months after the diagnosis, said his grandmother.

After his wife left, his father was so sad that he tried to commit suicide. He was prevented from doing so, but lost the ability to work.

The boy's grandparents have been taking care of him ever since, living in a 60-square-meter apartment in a residential community where gambling and other crimes are rampant.

It proved to be tough work for his grandparents, as he used to experience dozens of seizures a day.

"He could not control himself and twitched on the ground with purple lips caused by lack of oxygen to his brain," said his grandmother. "He might even lose consciousness for a time and need artificial respiration."

Unlike most of his peers who can do things for themselves, he has to live with his grandparents for fear of the recurrent seizures.

"There are no porcelain bowls in my home, since all of them have been broken by my grandson," his grandmother said. "You may not believe that we use basins to hold food."

The disease has also affected the development of his speaking ability, and he can't say most words clearly.

"Some naughty boys mock him and call him a fool, but he is not foolish, and his studies are at an average level," said his grandmother.

The boy said he felt sad being called a fool, but restrained his emotions in front of the other boys and never cried in public.

"However, he could not help crying when he came home after being bullied by the others," his grandmother said.

It shocked his grandmother in 2008 when some other boys urinated on him in school.

"All of his clothes got wet with urine," she said. "I decided to accompany him to school every day after that."

She applied to the school to accompany her grandson, but she was refused at first by the headmaster, who was concerned that her appearance in class would cause disruption.

Her continuous application paid off in 2009 when a new headmaster took over and allowed her to attend classes with her grandson.

Yang Youwei, the current headmaster, said he was moved by the grandmother's efforts to support the child.

"She deserved to be respected for the love she has given to her grandson," Yang said.

Yang even called for a donation from the school's students to help the boy's family in 2009. The school collected more than 600 yuan ($95) and the money was given to his grandmother.

"I feel deeply appreciative toward the headmaster, the students and teachers who offered a hand," the grandmother said.

Ji Jianghong, his head teacher, said he could understand the grandmother's feelings.

"At first, when the grandmother came to the classroom with the boy, some of the students felt curious, but the classroom returned to normal after a week once all the students got used to it," Ji said.

"As a young mother, I could sense such love for the child," she added.

The grandmother said her dream is to cure her grandson's epilepsy, or she will have to accompany him all the time.

He has to take at least five kinds of pills every day to ease the symptoms, costing the family more than 1,200 yuan per month.

"The whole family lives on the income of his grandpa's pension, which is a bit more than 1,500 yuan," said the grandmother.

"To cover medical expenses, we have sold all of the valuable home appliances, including the washing machine."

The boy, who is fond of playing the piano and chess, has developed a normal intelligence, said his grandmother.

"He is able to fix the TV set," she said, pointing to the old-fashioned TV set donated by their neighbor. "Even his grandpa could not do that."

Contact the writers at anbaijie@chinadaily.com.cn and sunruisheng@chinadaily.com.cn

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