Modern education comes to far-flung areas
A Shanghai Daily reporter was part of a journalists’ tour to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to see firsthand how the devotion and experience of senior Shanghai volunteers are making a difference in the lives of people there. This is her third report. To read the whole series, please go to shine.cn.
Liang ping, a 61-year-old retiree from Shanghai Jing’an Education College is doing a third tour of volunteer work in Xinjiang. A specialist in teaching management, she has designed family education programs and activities for people in local villages.
She is one of 20 retired professionals working in Xinjiang this summer under a senior volunteer action program that encourages professionals to contribute their talents and skills to hardship areas of China’s west.
They devote their passion and expertise to helping people in Xinjiang without any reward but the smiles and gratitude of those whose lives they brighten.
Since 2003, retired volunteers from Shanghai have made 351 trips to Xinjiang under a “senior volunteer action” program that encourages professionals to contribute their talents to China’s western regions.
The latest group of 20 volunteers from Shanghai have an average age of 63, and come from careers in medicine, education and psychology. Thirteen of them are on return visits to the region. The current contingent will return to Shanghai at the end of this month.
They are assigned to 10 work units in the city of Karamay, the prefecture of Kashgar and the counties of Yecheng, Shache and Bachu on a roughly two-month stint, during which they provide assistance in local hospitals, disease control and prevention centers, child welfare institutes and schools.
Liang is working in Bachu County this summer, more than 300 kilometers from Kashgar.
“Two months of services here are far from enough for me because I have so much to accomplish,” said Liang. “The divorce rate in some local villages is high, and children’s education is often neglected. Moreover, we see some cases of domestic violence.”
She has spent seven days visiting more than 20 far-flung villages in Bachu to promote family education, which is a new concept to the locals. She uses translators since most villagers are ethnic Uygurs.
“Few people could withstand the strain of such an intense work schedule, not to mention the shabby conditions of these villages, where meals are basic and no air conditioning is available when temperatures soar to 38 degrees,” Wang Lin, an official in the Bachu County Community Education Office, said in praise of the volunteers.
Another volunteer is Jin Nan, 61, a former teacher from Shanghai Minli High School specializing in information technology and community education. He is helping promote 3D printing in the local villages. The 3D printed works of local children were sold at a charity bazaar in Shanghai.
Jin was severely bitten by an insect in the leg and couldn’t sleep because of the pain and itching. There was no ointment at the local hospital to relieve the condition. He ended up applying salt water as a salve. In such a remote environment, ingenuity is paramount.
“I am called a ‘senior expert’ by the locals,” Jin said. “That places a lot of responsibility on me and I strive to fulfill expectations.”
Huang Lixin, 55, a former professor of Shanghai University of Engineering Science specializing in mechanical and automotive engineering, has compiled textbooks for students and faculty at Bachu County Vocational High School.
“When I was young,” she said, “I had a long-term goal to go to the neediest places in China. Now my teaching experience accumulated over decades is given full play here.”
Another of the current Shanghai team of educators is Ye Yin, 60, a vocal music teacher working at Kashgar College for Senior Citizens on her fourth volunteer stint in Xinjiang.
“I formerly was in Xinjiang 10 times, giving musical performances and traveling,” she said. “I love Xinjiang for its beauty, customs and people.”
She is organizing a female chorus at the college this summer.
“My ‘students’ are a mixed lot,” she said. “Some gave up their dreams of music when they were young because of throat problems. Now they want to fulfill their dreams. Some just want to make friends.”
She added, “Seniors sometimes behave like children, but I encourage them even if they don’t perform well.”
Her students love their teacher.
“I am very happy to be here,” said senior Zhao Yanqin. “I never expected to learn so many things after retirement. I am very interested in music and don’t miss any of Ye’s classes.”
Another student said Ye was always patient, even if rehearsals don’t go well.
“I have learned how to sing beautifully from here,” said He Yuxia, another student. Ye said there is a surplus of music teachers in Shanghai, but too few in areas like this that needs them. “I hope to return to Xinjiang next year and am even considering moving here to live,” she said.