A couple teachers and a cliff school

By Zhou Jing
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China.org.cn, May 31, 2011
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When the remote Erping Village, with its green mountains and clear rivers, is covered by the thin mist rising from the deep valley, it looks like a fictional retreat from today's noisy world.

Li Guilin and Lu Jianfen are a couple and have been teaching Erping students for almost 21 years.

But sheltered by the mountains and with no public transportation, the village is isolated and poor. Many villagers still live in shabby adobe houses.

The village's children must not only mentally, but also physically exert themselves to get an education.

Erping Village Primary School, which locals call the "cliff school," was built on a hilltop that villagers said only a monkey could climb to. The school sits near the village in its township, Wushidaqiao, in the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The school has only two teachers: Li Guilin and Lu Jianfen. They are a couple and have been teaching Erping students for almost 21 years.

In 1990, after the school suspended for over 10 years, the Wushidaqiao government decided to reopen it. But they were worried that the school, sitting on the top of a mountain at more than 2,800 meters altitude, would keep potential teachers away.

In addition, the job paid only 100 yuan per month (US $15.4) when the average pay was about 200 yuan per month at the time.

Before arriving, Li knew the village was very poor but had not anticipated that the natural conditions were that tough. When he saw villagers dressed in rags with bare feet and naked children, he decided to stay. He was even more determined when a villager told him that almost none of 400 villagers could read or write.

One year later, he persuaded his wife Lu to teach with him at the primary school. The couple climbed a rickety 40-meter-long wooden stairway every workday to reach the school and care for their students.

In 1996, their first batch of students graduated from the school and achieved much better academic results than other similar schools in the county. Li was elected as an outstanding teacher and the school was awarded advanced group status by the local government.

A total of 254 students have graduated from the school in 21 years, and many of them have left the mountainous village to work elsewhere.

The wooden stairway has been replaced with a stable iron one with a concrete guard railing, making a much safer climb to and from school for the students.

A new schoolhouse will soon await students at the top of the mountain, thanks to one million yuan in donations through the efforts of the local government and Li himself.

"The rural highway to the village is under construction and will be soon completed," Li said. "I hope Erping Village will be different in another 20 years and my students can study and work hard to build a better hometown."

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