MBL Donates Books and Supplies to Schools in Daxueshan (Big Snow Mountains) Town
Basic Information of Elementary Education in Daxueshan Town
General Introduction: one central school and four village schools
Jiefang Primary School (central one):431students(130 junior middle school students included)
Shilong Primary School：one class for each grade, all six classes comprising 160 students
Changyuan Primary School（Changyuan, Mei and Xue’s birth place）：three classes consist of approximately 50 students and upper grade pupils will be transferred to Jiefang Primary School. The enrollment plan is subject to change.
Xueshan Primary School：there are up to 40 students of two classes，and the enrollment plan will be subject to change in light of actual situation.
Huaiping Primary School：30 plus students distributed in two classes.
In response to the government’s call for “compulsory establishment of primary school in a few miles around for every village”, the central school Jiefang Primary School was set up, coupled with other four village schools.Short of school-age children in small villages,some grades were even cancelled, so it’s not rare to find only three to four classes scattered in small village schools.
Donation Ceremony for Library, Stationeries and Heating Facilities
On April 21, with the help of Jun Ai Volunteers Association, we drove two hours from Junlian county to Shilong Primary School in Daxueshan town.
Upon arriving there,we had a brief consultation with Principal Jiang. Shortly afterwards, the donation ceremony was held on the school playground.
Presided by Principal Jiang, the ceremony kicked off in front of the school assembly. I made a speech on behalf of all the MBL volunteers, in which I gave an outline of this international charity organization MBL and the purpose of our trip here.The donation ceremony concluded with the speech from Mr.Barry Coates and Ms. Rosaland Coates who are the representatives of our philanthropic families.Zhao, vice president of Jun Ai Volunteers Association, and the local manager of China Unicom also made their speech.
After the ceremony, it was time to hand out the stationeries to the children. There are approximately 160 students on the campus, the number of which is twice as many as that of the donated school bags. After careful calculation and a short discussion,we finally decided to grant those bags to lower grades pupils while grades 4-6 were arranged by teachers to go back to classrooms for self-study.
For lack of school bags, three to four students’ share was replaced by other exquisite study articles.Except for them,the majority of grades 1-3students got a set of stationery（ a school bag, a pencil-box and color pencils ） each. We’ve tried to make everyone happy.
Rules for Library Use
On April 21,we officially donated the library to Shilong Primary School, and the donated books aggregated 900 along with a certain number of study articles, sports equipment and heating facilities.
The library lies right in the reading room of Shilong Primary School，decorated with three sides of book shelves.
For the sake of book storage and preservation as well as the limited space,rules for library use have been set by us and the teachers there after several rounds of discussion.
- No books are allowed to be taken out of the reading room.
Borrowing services are temporarily unavailable;
- The library opens 40 minutes per noon time from Monday to Friday；
- The six classes have been divided into five groups. Each group, led by a group leader, rotates the reading activity.
The On-going Interest-oriented Classes
One the morning of April 22, Coates conducted two interest-oriented English classes for grade 3 and 4 respectively. Ros, with the help of her daughter Mei, taught grade four children how to introduce themselves and how to introduce each other; Barry’s class, with the help of his daughter Snow, was aiming to familiarize the third grade children with the pronunciation of English numbers.
Ros and Barry are very good teachers and are fairly experienced in arousing the enthusiasm of the children as much as possible,though sometimes they can be rather shy. Our feeling is: although the children have an English class and can follow the textbook, the content of it is too obscure and “too hard” for them to comprehend; therefore, the learned knowledge has barely left any impression to the students, not even to mention reading after it.Worse still, some of the entry level content, as simple as the basic sentences for self-introduction, is not yet fully understood by them. However,the most meaningful part of English education at elementary level is probably to lay a solid foundation and encourage the children to open their mouths.
Shilong Primary School, according to my personal observation, is just like many other village schools, in which a teacher has to teach more than one subject.This situation reminds me of the days when I went to elementary school. Ten years ago, my math teacher had to manage teaching science and art. Some teachers at Shilong Primary School today are still undertaking the tasks of teaching minor subjects besides Chinese and mathematics while such an important subject as English is being ignored.There is a professional English teacher at that school whose good command of English has been proven through his interaction with Barry. But as far as I know, teachers of other subjects may assume the role of teaching English to some lower grades and it is still arguable as to whether these teachers themselves are competent enough in English language.
Accommodation of Shilong Primary School
Shilong Primary School spared three bedrooms in teachers’ dormitory for us six. These”mountain view rooms”amazed us with their private bathrooms, king-size beds and nice view. We are very grateful to this.
Shilong Primary School, in addition, treated us to varied and rich meals in teachers’ cafeteria even when their own teachers only ate lunch there. That means the cooks had to work extra hours for our breakfast and dinner, for which we feel indebted to them even to think of it today.
The teachers in the dormitory are all very hospitable and caring. To take Mr. Wang for an example, he invited us to use his shower room when hot water is in short supply in our rooms. Wang’s son is a student of that school, so the Wangs live together in teachers’ dorm. They take it as their makeshift home furnished with kitchen, television, bathroom, and Wi-Fi, to just name a few.Our life there has benefited a lot from that.
Another neighbor Ms. Cao bought us a sack of apples at her own expense, and reassured us to help ourselves to the apples. She is very talkative and always wears an agreeable smile.In spite of her broken English, she tried to chat with Coates and his families.During those days, I often played the role of her translator.
Also, there was a very young teacher, gentle and well dressed. To our surprise, she is said to have come from the city. Cao commended that village schools nowadays offer handsome salary and provide accommodation, which have attracted quite a number of young graduates from the city to work there.
Follow-up Charity Activities
While doing volunteer work, we discussed with Wen Tao, the president of Jun Ai Volunteers Association, and Jiang,the principal of Shilong Primary School, about the local education at the elementary level as well as the follow-up charity work that we can expect.
Principal Jiang suggested that it is the basic resources like books that are needed at present since the local schools are undergoing a dramatic change in their facilities and environment as a whole, and thus the hardware equipment cannot be a problem. Concerning with the growing demand for extracurricular books，however,Jiang told me schools have reported that to the local Education Bureau and were awaiting the feedback and more details.
Meanwhile，Wen Tao held a different view that extracurricular books are not as urgent as electronic equipment related to computerization because children in the mountain areas can be connected with the outside world simply by a network cable and learning how to operate a computer is also an essential survival skill for them.
There are currently two networked computers in Shilong Primary School, both installed in the teachers’ office for teaching purpose.My suggestion is that it would be beneficial even if a limited number of student use computers could be in place so that the students could take turns to use them under teacher’s guidance or learn these skills on computer courses.Of course information-filtering system deserves more attention in this case. In addition, if the classrooms could be equipped with television sets, then interesting documentaries for teenagers such as historical or nature ones made by BBC can yet be regarded as an excellent means of popularizing science and information.
Reported by Zhu Jiayi (MBL volunteer)
Translation by Song Xiaotao (MBL volunteer) on June 30, 2016