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Yingxiu: Learning to forget

Updated: 2013-05-09 13:57
( China Daily)

Yingxiu: Learning to forget

Yingxiu Primary School students enjoy their exercise routines on their new campus. CHEN KAI / XINHUA

Teachers and students get active to escape the shadow of the earthquake.

Every day at 10 am, all the teachers and kids in Yingxiu Primary School dash from their new classrooms to the spacious playground, where they dance hand-in-hand to local ethnic music that echoes in the valleys.

After dancing for 20 minutes, they break into groups to run around or play sports, such as table tennis or basketball. It is another 20 minutes before they return to their classrooms to finish their morning lessons.

"Kids can easily erase their trauma if they are busy exercising," says Tan Guoqiang, headmaster of the school.

"We have changed a lot since the quake," says Tan, who has been teaching in schools dotted around the gorgeous mountains for 32 years.

Nearly five years ago, Tan's school, which was walking distance from the quake's epicenter, was completely flattened. About half of the students and teachers died.

Before the quake, the morning exercise break lasted just 20 minutes. Now the duration has been doubled and all teachers are requested to join the activities on the playground. Should an earthquake strike again, the teachers and students will have more open space in which to take refuge. Every Thursday afternoon, there are an extra 40 minutes of sports activities.

In the open area near the school gate, workers were erecting a big electric screen. Tan says it would play cartoon films for boarding students.

"I hope this can bring them more amusement and help them forget," he says. "The teachers find it harder to escape from the shadows than the children."

After the disaster, Tan devoted himself to the rescue efforts for days. But he still regrets that he had no time to take care of his beloved wife and mother-in-law, who died at their ruined home near the school.

Tan, who became headmaster in 2003, has overcome many challenges since his school disappeared. He had to deal with the families’ tragedies, find a place to host classes, help traumatized parents and teachers, and advise the school’s design and construction.

Because he works in such a secluded school, Tan says he hadn't thought it necessary to have his own name card. Now, he does. In recent years, he has handed out hundreds of them.

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