Saturday August 4, 2012
Educating the poor out of poverty
MADE IN CHINA
By CHOW HOW BAN
The Nangqian County Sunshine Welfare School brings orphans and poor children together to give them a good foundation for the future.
FIFTEEN-year-old Wang Cuo yearns to go to school as she wants to be the first in her family to graduate with a university degree.
Her three elder siblings, aged between 16 and 23, missed out on school and now they work as shepherds in their hometown in Zhexiao village in Qinghai province’s Nangqian county.
When she was 10, Wang Cuo, who is of the Tibetan ethnic minority group, rode pillion on her brother’s motorcycle travelling about 90km on bumpy roads to get enrolled at the Nangqian County Sunshine Welfare School.
“I was extremely happy just to start my first class in Standard One. I wanted to learn as much as possible,” recalled the Standard Five pupil in a recent interview at the school.
She was among the first batch of 36 poor children from the county who were picked by a group of stakeholders of the private boarding school to kick-start their education.
Currently, the school has 133 pupils from Standard One to Five.
They study Mandarin, English, the Tibetan language and Mathematics at the school from Monday through Saturday.
“My favourite subjects are Mandarin and Tibetan language.
“I would like to continue studying in high school and eventually university. My ambition is to become a doctor.
“It is very important to pursue knowledge. You cannot buy knowledge,” Wang Cuo said.
Wang Cuo and her classmate Cairen Laji are two of the highest scorers at the school. Cairen Laji also wants to overcome the odds and aspires to become a teacher.
“Many people in my village are not educated. I do not want to be like them.
“Through my hard work, I hope to gain more knowledge so that I can help more people from my hometown and educate them one day,” said the 16-year-old from Jinisai village, about 100km from the county.
The pupils are orphans or those who had lost one of their parents. Most of them live in poverty and despite the primary education they are receiving from the Nangqian County Sunshine Welfare School, their fate will be in a limbo once they advance to high school.
Founded by Bajin Rinpoche, a reverend from Gongya Tibetan Buddhist Temple in 2003, the school has developed from just a classroom building into a set-up with teachers’ staff room, hostel and a canteen.
The daily operational cost of the school has been supported by individual donors.
Despite that, the school is still lagging behind many government schools in the area in terms of infrastructure and financial resources.
Its headmaster Er Zha said last October, the county’s education department took over the management of the school and had allocated more funds for the construction of new classrooms and hostels.
“A month after the handover of the school to the education department, I was sent here to assume the duties of the headmaster.
“At that time, I felt that this school was such a huge departure from the previous school where I used to work.
“This school was facing financial difficulties and its condition was rather poor.
“Now that the government has come forward to look help us, I am confident that our school will be on par with other schools,” he said.
He said that when he arrived at the school, he had initially thought of giving up his job because of the poor conditions.
However, after taking into consideration its good foundation and the many pupils keen in pursuing studies, he decided to stay.
“The government’s objective is to place all the orphans and poor children in the county in our school. We will then focus on providing them with a good education,” he added.
Malaysian businessman Y.C. Tan, who has helped build the school through his fundraising and donation drive over the past seven years, said the Tibetan community in the county needed assistance.
“Nangqian county is one of the poorest places in China. It has a population of about 50,000 living on a vast area of 100,000 sq km.
“Most of them do farming and raise cattle and sheep for a living.
“They live in a primitive area and once they have sicknesses or diseases, they will die as there are no hospitals in this area.
“They will go to the nearby cities for help by walking or riding a horse. As a result of that, this area has a lot of orphans,” he said.