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My Week in Guizhou Province, China (Part III) __Vincent Lee (65)

Part III: The Village Schools - with the Guizhou Rose Society of Edmonton
 
In school visits in prior years, Dr. Tai told me, when he asked the principals what would the students would like him to bring, he was invariably given the same list: Student back packs, pens, pencils, school supplies....and so on.  That's exactly what we brought with us: Four car loads of gift packages, each containing a new back pack, pens, pencils, note books, a dictionary, a tooth brush, toothpaste, and a toy item.  I actually suggested to include a candy item, thinking these kids probably don't get much sweets, and they don't, but was voted down......!  Of all people, "it's the dentist that wanted to throw in a pack of candy in the gift package......".  I'm human, but no go!  Well, I tried!  We visited two schools, and here's what I saw:
 
1. A school for the deaf and dumb near a village
 
- This school is about 45 min. walk (a few minutes drive)  from a large village.  It has 5 dedicated female teachers, a couple quite young, late 20s or early 30s, couple of care takers, a cook, and 32 residential students, age from 4 to 14.  The concrete 3-storey school building is all self-contained: classrooms, separate domitories for boys and girls, kitchen, small cafeteria, care takers' quarters, showers and bathrooms, and a good size playground, with secure walled-in perimeters.  
 
- My very first comment is that these kids are definitely NOT dumb at all !! 
It's too bad that in the English language, the word "dumb" caries two meanings - "hearing handicapped" and "stupid".  The Chinese language does not have this problem.  (To understand what I mean, you will have to learn Chinese!).
They are all very smart and absolutely lovable.  After receiving our gift packs, they showed their appreciation with big smiles, hand signs and throat and nasal noises.  We showed them how to brush their teeth, and how to properly wash their hands.  They do have running water.
 
- One of us put this question to the teachers: "How and where do you find these kids?"  "Oh, we don't need to find them", we were told.  "Their parents would wrap them in blankets when they were babies, and left them by the front gate.......; if we don't take them in, they would simple freeze and starve to death.....".
 
- Every night, two of the five teachers would take their turn to stay in the school to watch over the kids.  You can tell from their interactions that these ladies love the children, and vise versa. 
 
- Last year, the Rose Society provided funding to set up two special rooms/programs for this school.  A sewing room and a computer room.  We return (I for the first time) to look at the set up.
 
- In one room, the Rose Society bought 8 foot-operated sewing machines (just like the one I had in my own home when I was a kid).  The machines are put to full use to train the girls sewing skills.  The teachers would show them, also they have a lady (seamstress) coming in each week to give them lessions.  The idea is provide these girls some basic employable skills to prepare them for life after they leave the school.  We spent quite a bit of time in this sewing room observing a few girls eagerly showing off their sewing ability and products: scarfs, slippers, simple shirts, table cloths.....etc.  Nothing too fancy yet, because the program is still new, but you can see the pride in them and in their teachers' faces.  "It's money very well worth spending, good job!",  I told Dr.Tai, Thomas and the teachers.
 
- The second room houses 8 brand new computer sets, tables and chairs included.  It is used to provide basic computer training to the older boys and girls; and they love it.  The teaching program is still in its infancy because, the teachers told us, it is quite difficult to find the right material specially programed for the hearing and speech handicapped.  But given time and our continuing support, it will evolve and be continually developed.  It is a school filled with loving care.
 
2. A regular elementary school - Grades 1 to 6
 
- This school is located in a different village, about 1.5 hours away by car from the school for the hearing/speech handicapped.  It has 125 kids - a straightly day school.   
 
- The only road that leads to the school is a mud road, and we get there in the afternoon after a couple of hours of light rain.  As we got close to the school, we saw a car and a motor bike skid in the mud ahead of us.  Our cars almost got stuck as well.  Finally we decided we would get off and walk the remaining 10 to 15 minutes (seemed forever!) to avoid getting our cars sucked in by the thick mud.
 
- The principal came out with wide open arms to greet us, a very friendly fellow with a deep voice.  Poor man, I thought, he (and the teachers, and kids) would have to walk through all that mud to get back to the village to go home!  I didn't see any cars or school bus parked anywhere near the school yard.  We were told that some of these kids had to walk an hour or more to come to school every day - and back home. 
 
- The principal rang the "class break" bell, and all the kids were lined up in the yard.  But we thought it would take too long to present our gift packs to them individually - it also looked like the rain would come back - the principal introduced us and told the kids they would receive their goodies in their respective classrooms.  We then took the class reps. (= "monitors" or "class president") of each class into the large teachers' room to show them oral hygiene and proper hand washing. 
 
- Before we left, we inspected a "water cube" in a corner of the school yard, built with funding from the Rose Society.  In previous visits, it was found that this school had its water supply, but the supply was so unreliable, half the time when you turned on the tap, there was no water.  Dr. Tai decided to build the water reservoir for them (similar to those in the village water projects).  Now they have fresh clean water all day, for washing after bathroom use and so on.
 
This is a school full of life! 
  
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