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Boatman teacher

By Li Yang ( China Daily ) Updated: 2013-10-15 13:25:48

Boatman teacher

Zhang Fuyou, 60, ferries 6-year-old Liu Lihua across a reservoir to Dajiang Primary School. Photos by Huo Yan / China Daily

Despite the lure of better opportunities away from home, two teachers from Lipu in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region have remained committed to giving their students an education. Li Yang meets the dedicated pair.

Zhang Fuyou, 60, has been a "boatman teacher" since 1975. He ferries primary school pupils from villages in the Dalong town of Lipu county in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region across a reservoir to Dajiang Primary School every day.

Together with several villages, the school was separated from the other villages in 1958 when a river was dammed to form a large reservoir.

Boatman teacher

Founded in the 1950s, the mountain school had more than 300 students and 15 teachers at its prime in 1985, but now it only comprises nine students and two teachers. Zhang Fuyou is one of those teachers.

It takes Zhang 15 minutes to carry the students across the narrowest part of the reservoir, saving them two hours of walking on a wild mountain path. When the water recedes in winter, he has to trudge over the riverbed mud and stones in rubber boots to push the boat across the water.

In late 1980s, he used to ferry about 20 students. But now, he ferries only 6-year-old Liu Lihua. "It does not make much of a difference," Zhang says.

He worked as a railway construction worker from 1972-74 after graduating from high school and became a teacher after that, taking over the job from a retired teacher.

Born to a poor farmer as the second child of five siblings in 1953, Zhang inherited the hardworking character and sympathy for the poor from his illiterate parents.

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