A Chinese teacher dedicates her life to educating girls

DAILY PEOPLE digital 2022:10:18.15:31

Zhang Guimei, principal of a school in Yunnan

By Li Yingqing and Wang Ru

1995 was the darkest period in Zhang Guimei’s life: she lost her beloved husband to cancer after spending all her savings trying to cure him. Before that, Jan lost his parents.

Feeling desperate, she asked to leave Dali City, Yunnan Province, where she worked with her husband as a teacher, and went to teach in the remote mountainous Huaping County, Lijiang City, Yunnan, a completely foreign place to her.

“I wanted to find a place where no one knows me or can remind me of any beautiful moments in my life. I was banished,” recalled Zhang, who was born in Heilongjiang Province in 1957 and moved to Yunnan Province in 1974.

This decision changed not only his life, but also that of many children who live in the deep mountains. Although she was in the dark, she lit up the lives of others and was elected as a delegate to the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

In 1997, she was diagnosed with uterine fibroids. Her colleagues and students donated funds to her, which touched her a lot and she wanted to return their love.

“I hadn’t contributed much to the county but I brought so much trouble. I felt guilty. I could only do my best working as a teacher and I hoped to do more for the county,” recalls Jan.

She noticed that many girls were dropping out of school. After visiting their homes, she found that poverty and outdated mentalities hindered their support for their daughters’ education and forced them to marry at an early age.

To change the situation, Zhang decided to create a high school that would offer free admission to local girls. She tried to raise money but failed and was considered a fraud by many.

An opportunity for change came when she was elected in 2007 as a delegate to the 17th National Congress of the CCP. After conducting an interview about her educational goal, the local government helped Zhang. Lijiang Huaping Girls High School was established in 2008 with Zhang as the principal.

Zhang Guimei, principal of Lijiang Huaping Girls’ High School in Lijiang, Yunnan Province, makes sure female students have a good breakfast after a morning reading session, 2022. [Foto: Jiang Wenyao/Xinhua]

The first year welcomed 96 students, many of whom had little education before entering the school.

“If the girls from the mountainous area want to leave, we just lend a hand to help them fly to see a bigger world,” Zhang told China Central Television.

Since the establishment of the school, more than 2,000 students have flown to the outside world and changed their lives, and the school has become one of the best high schools in Lijiang.

In addition to his work at the school, Zhang also serves as the dean of the Huaping Welfare Home, which cares for orphans.

Over the years, Zhang has reached almost every corner of Lijiang and changed the fate of many families. Although single and childless, she became the mother of many orphans.

Zhang has devoted himself to the cause of education without much concern for his failing health. He has rheumatoid arthritis, pulmonary fibrosis and serious stomach problems, but insists on continuing to help others.

“For the past decade, our CCP and our government have been striving to make it possible for all children to attend school. Today, we have achieved this goal,” he said after listening to the report to the congress delivered by Xi Jinping on behalf of the 19th CPC Central Committee.

In the future, she hopes to bring many more mountain children along the path of modernization.

“This requires the knowledge and skills of teachers, so we teachers must improve ourselves while teaching students. Whatever it takes, we must achieve it and not drag the modernization of our country,” he concluded.

(Web Editor: 吴思萱, Zhao Jian)

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