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Loewe's labor of love

(China Daily)
Updated: 2010-01-30 08:09
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While our compatriots rack their brains on how to get their 15 minutes of fame, and subsequent fortune, he has been hiding from the spotlight. So media-shy is he that he pleaded that his name be removed from the list of candidates for the annual "Moving China" award.

"The media may make me a celebrity. I just want to do my things well, and not to become famous. Being a celebrity can only disturb my work and life," said Eckart Loewe, known as Lu Anke, the young German who, out of his own volition, teaches in the desolate villages of the remote Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

Owing in a large part to his own unwillingness, Loewe did not make it to the 2006 "Moving China" list. Yet his stories have never failed to move us. And perhaps never will.

After living more than a decade with the shy young foreign teacher, the villagers no longer see him as weird even though he still refuses to drink, eat meat and be paid. His stories, however, continue to raise curiosity among the larger audience.

He has been fined for teaching voluntarily without an official "work permit". He has been fired from a school for failing to raise students' test scores. Yet nothing has made him give up what he believes is correct.

The always-modest Loewe accepted an interview in the hope that others may know what he is up to, and that they, too, would do the same. Judging from the sighs and laments the subsequent reports have evoked, he has indeed achieved what he had set out to.

We thank the "overseas Lei Feng" - the venerated altruist icon recommended by Chairman Mao Zedong who was known for always being ready to help - not just for what he has done for the rural kids.

His instructions may instill life-changing insights and confidence into the kids, something they could never have acquired in the official education system. More important than that, he has prompted reflections on the way basic education is imparted in this country.

In spite of the sighs, laments and introspections his stories have inspired among commoners, we are not sure if those ripples will even reach those truly in charge of education. After all, this is a typical story of ordinary people being moved by someone just as common.

Many say Loewe's stories should make his Chinese counterparts blush. We have no idea if the latter would do so. Loewe is a nobody who commands little, if not no, authority in education theories. His approach may even be considered as ruining the students' future. Or he might not have been dismissed by one of the schools.

But, just as many have observed, he is doing something worth doing, which not many in this country even bother to attempt.

Loewe has said he has no intention to change Chinese education, which he believes is the business of the Chinese. He cannot, even if he wants to.

We are only curious what our educators have to say about this tenacious German.

(China Daily 01/30/2010 page5)