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Young teacher revitalizes impoverished school

By Huang Zhiling | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2013-09-09 20:51

When Cai Zengping arrived at the Yangqing Village Primary School in Ningtan, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, in 2007 to work as a teacher, she wanted to immediately flee.

Never had she seen such an impoverished school. The classrooms were shoddy and there were no toilets or playground facilities.

"I didn't want to take my luggage out of the car that had sent me to the school because I wanted to flee. Only after the driver … took my luggage out did I have to get out (of the car)," Cai said.

Cai had trouble settling in at the school. One thing she dreaded doing was using the toilet at night. Each time, she had to ask a girl student to bring a flashlight and accompany her to the toilet, which was not located near her dormitory.

"I could not adapt to the new environment. I almost got sick each week and I wept almost every night," she recalled.

A resident of Beiliu in Guangxi Zhuang, Cai graduated from the Lingling Normal School in Yongzhou, Hunan province, and passed an examination in December 2007 to become the Yangqing primary school's teacher.

But six years later, Cai, 30, still teaches at the school and has strived to improve conditions at the school. Thus far, she has received more than 400,000 yuan ($65,570) in donations of cash and school materials to give the school a major facelift.

What kept her at the school, she said, were the students. When she was sick, many of the female students took turns washing her clothes, preparing meals for her and accompanying her at night.

"The students are simple and thoughtful. I love them and chose to stay," Cai said.

That love pushed Cai to improve the school. During a volunteer activity for www.1KG.org, a charity website, in 2009, she talked about how her students studied diligently in deplorable school conditions.

Her presentation moved a businessman in Beijing to donate 20,000 yuan to buy 120 sets of desks and chairs for the school.

Since then, Cai has contacted other charity websites, sending them photos of what needs to be improved at the school.

"One donation after another arrived. They include sports equipment from Zhejiang province, fans and books from a website, computers from a company in Beijing, a digital camera from a netizen in Guangdong province and mosquito nets from a company in Guangdong. There are also donations to build a school playground and walkways," said school principal Luo Tenglong.

One of the major improvements at the school has been to the quality of the drinking water. More than 180 teachers and students in the school had been drinking unsanitary water from a shallow well that was running dry.

Many, including Cai, became sick after drinking the well's water, which prompted Cai to send photos of the well to charity websites asking for help.

In June 2009, two people in Beijing donated 22,000 yuan for a deep well to be constructed at the school. Cai also found another donation for two solar water heaters.

"Thanks to the heaters, we can take hot showers," said Li Jun, a sixth grader at the school.

In the fall of 2010, the school set up a scholarship for students who either excelled academically or showed filial piety to parents. The scholarship, which gives 2,500 yuan to a student each semester, has been granted to nearly 500 students.

"The money is not a huge sum. But it has stimulated students to study hard and show love for their parents," Teng said.

huangzhiling@chinadaily.com.cn

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