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Rural teacher moonlights in mining to support poor students
By Guan Xiaomeng (Chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2005-12-16 10:59

For three years, a rural teacher in a remote village in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality has been moonlighting as a coal miner in his spare time to pay for the school expenditures of some of his poor students who can't afford their tuition costs, Chongqing Evening News reported.

Liu Nianyou rests and smokes after he gets out of the mine. [Xinhua]

Liu Nianyou, 48 years old, has been teaching in primary school for 28 years. Over this span, he has supported his poor students, ensuring that none of them have to withdraw from school due to a lack of money.

The Chongqing paper said Liu began working on his weekends in a small local coal mine three years ago. He goes down into the deep mine exactly at dawn and comes back up to the ground, caked with soot, only after finishing the day's work. His daily lunch at the mine is porridge and pickles.

"Liu kept his coal mine job as a secret for as long as three years," said Liu's school headmaster. "We suddenly found his face covered with soot one day and he told us that he worked in a coal mine, but only after we asked him several times."

Liu now teaches 17 children in all their subjects. Thirteen of them have got financial support from him. However, he can't count out how many children on earth have received his support throughout his long teaching career.

Liu Nianyou walks his students to their school. [Chongqing Evening News]

In the late 1970s, when Liu first began teaching a class of the poorest children, some of them couldn't afford the tuition of 5 -yuan (US$0.61) -per term. Liu paid for their tuitions with his 6.5-yuan monthly salary and also asked his wife to prepare lunch for some of his students, whose homes were far away.

Liu has his own two children to support. "But he works in coal mine not just for me and our children," said Liu's wife. "He spends most of his salary every month on supporting his students no matter how difficult it is for him."

"The food our teacher eats is much worse than what we eat," said one of his students. The student said that several times she has seen her teacher eat rice mixed in hot water with some pickles.

Liu lives in a spare classroom, which also serves as his office room and kitchen. A wooden board with a hole-combed mat on it serves as his bed.

"I haven't bought new clothes for eight years," he said. "But I paid 25 yuan for a pair of leather shoes for the sake of my image as a teacher." However, he spends 20 yuan per month for his daily use.

In one of his notebooks, there is a 15,000-yuan IOU list. "I borrowed the money for my students and I will spare no efforts to repay the money," he said.

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