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Teacher transforms lives amid mountains

By LI YINGXUE | China Daily| Updated: 2022-10-18 Print


Liu Xiuxiang (right), 34, vice-principal and history teacher at Wangmo Experimental High School in Guizhou province. [Photo/cppcc.gov.cn]

At 5:30 am, when the sky just begins to brighten, a thin figure in a white shirt paces around with a book in hand, waiting for students in the classroom.

Liu Xiuxiang, 34, vice-principal and history teacher at Wangmo Experimental High School, has been carrying out such a role for a decade.

Since graduating from university in 2012, Liu has devoted himself to teaching and helping dropouts return to school in his hometown in Wangmo county of Qianxinan Buyi and Miao autonomous prefecture, Guizhou province.

Awarded the title of "most beautiful teacher" along with nine other educators by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the Ministry of Education in 2020, Liu was also recently elected as a delegate to the 20th CPC National Congress.

"I'm just one of the tens of thousands of educators in the mountains. I will give more attention to the students and help provide more confidence to the teachers in these areas," Liu said.

When Liu was 4, his father died of an illness. His mother became depressed and developed other mental ailments. Six years later, his teenage brother and two sisters left home for work. He lost contact with his siblings.

Liu had to earn money for his studies and take care of his mother all by himself. During middle school, he was exempted from tuition fees due to his excellent grades.

In 2008, Liu enrolled at Linyi University in Shandong province to study history. During college, besides studying and taking care of his mother, he took on many part-time jobs — he handed out leaflets, tutored students and became a waiter at restaurants and bars.

That was also when Liu made headlines nationwide, with media reports of him as a filial son who took care of his mother full-time while he regularly attended classes.

Liu refused to accept social assistance even as he helped two girls and a boy with their educational expenses.

When Liu graduated in 2012, one of the girls he helped had dropped out after middle school. Liu made up his mind to become a teacher in his hometown — he turned down a higher-wage offer as a salesman in Beijing.

Choosing to stay in Guizhou has definitely been worth it as he can help influence hundreds or even thousands of children to continue their studies, Liu said.

"I want to tell children who do not come from well-off families or those who like me have felt confused at some point that, whenever they face difficulties or setbacks, they must hold on to their dreams and persevere. I will be right behind them."

Besides teaching, Liu has visited every village neighboring his school on his motorcycle to promote welfare education among rural parents.

Li Yingfen, one of Liu's students whose mother and uncle suffer from mental disabilities and grandfather is ill at home, tried to quit school a few times to help her father with farmwork to support the family. Liu stopped her and told her there were good-hearted people willing to provide her with financial support.

Li and her younger brother continued to study and subsequently enrolled in college.

In 2018, when Li visited Liu during her winter vacation and accidentally found her letter to those who helped her, she realized Liu was the one who provided the support.

"Without Liu's help, I could never have completed college," Li said. After graduation in 2021, Li also returned home to become a teacher.

In 2016, Liu set up a facility to further aid education in rural schools of mountainous areas. He organizes training for young teachers and his team helps to match social support with impoverished students — more than 4,200 needy students have received financial support covering over 13 million yuan ($1.8 million).

"My educational philosophy is to give up on no one; every child deserves a better future," Liu said.

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