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Ordinary woman moves country with extraordinary story

By Ma Chi (chinadaily.com.cn)

Updated: 2015-03-15 09:32:39


Ordinary woman moves country with extraordinary story

With her heavy built, thick rural accent and kind smile, Gao Shuzhen looks just like an ordinary rural woman in North China, but what she does is anything but ordinary.

Living in a small village in Luannan county of Tangshan, Hebei province, Gao's only son started having pain of the joints at the age of four. After several medical treatments, she was forced to accept that her son would live the rest of his life as a disabled man.

Though handicapped physically, the boy wanted to learn just like any other kid. However, no school wanted to enroll him due to his disability. Watching him look at his friends go to school was painful for her.

"My son is already handicapped physically; I would not let him grow up an illiterate," said Gao. She decided to set up a "home school" for his son.

Later, Gao found out that there were other children in the neighboring villages also who were not able to go to school because of their disabilities.

"Despite their physical handicap, these kid are as smart as other children," said Gao. "If they can receive education, they will have a better chance to master a skill in the future and become less of a burden to the society."

In 1998, five disabled kids began studying at Gao's "home school", and since then, more have been admitted free of charge. At the busiest time, there are dozens of students studying and living at Guo's home.

For a normal rural family, it's not easy to support so many kids. In more than 10 years, Guo has managed to feed the disabled kids by cultivating 1.3 hectares of land she took on a contract and by selling small commodities such as socks and soaps door to door.

"I do not think much. What I'm always thinking is how to make money to support these children," said Gao.

Her family has also paid the price of Guo's benevolence.

As there was a shortage of teachers, Guo's daughter was forced to quit middle school to help her mother teach the disabled children. When her daughter grew up, Guo told her that her husband had to be a compassionate man who would help to take care and teach the disabled kids.

What Gao did was almost crazy in the eyes of people around her. They thought she was simply looking for trouble especially when discrimination against disabled people is common in rural area. But Gao never gave up. She thought with so many children living together, they would help each other and encourage each other.

For the 57-year-old, seeing her students support themselves has made all her sacrifices worth the effort.

"One of the kids (I have taught) is a dwarf. He has learned welding skills himself. Now, he can earn a few dozens of yuan a day by doing welding jobs. Maybe it's not a large sum, but it is enough for him to support himself," said Gao proudly.

After Gao's story was reported in media, many people were moved and began helping the "home school". Some college students voluntarily went to teach the disabled children.

"After all, there are more kind people in the world," said the woman.

"I often tell the kids to study hard and be a useful person so as to repay the kindness of these good people," said Gao.

In 2013, she was nominated a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), and now she speaks for handicapped children at the top political gathering of the country.

At this year's NPC session, Gao Shuzhen called for the construction of more special schools in rural areas, better medical services and more job opportunities for disabled people, and less prejudice against them.