Profile: Retired professor devotes decade to rural child education

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GUIYANG, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- Liu Xiaosheng, 73, finally had some time of his own when the summer vacation ended recently. He had been teaching children English free of charge six days a week for over a month.

The "classroom" was the courtyard of a local rural family in a village administered by the city of Zunyi, in southwest China's Guizhou Province. On the outer wall of the house, there was a small blackboard full of phonetic symbols. Benches were arranged in a U shape to serve as desks, and a dozen children sat close together during classes.

Before retirement, Liu was a foreign language professor at a university in Chongqing Municipality. In 2012, he brought his family to Guizhou, known for its cool climate, to spend the summer.

One evening, he saw a neighbor's child learning English when he was visiting. He asked the child to read him a passage in English.

"The pronunciation was bad," Liu recalled. As a teacher, he knew how important a standard pronunciation was to learning English. He began to correct the child's pronunciation.

In this way, Liu "recruited" his first student in the village. The news of "free English tutoring by retired university professor" soon spread across the village, and more and more children came to him to learn English.

At first, Liu taught in his living room, then moved to the more spacious corridor. But soon the corridor was packed with students. A villager volunteered to vacate his rice milling room as a "classroom." The villagers also pooled their money to buy desks, chairs, benches and a blackboard.

Later, with the increase in students, Liu set up his classroom in the courtyard of a villager's house -- Liu is affectionately called "courtyard teacher" by villagers.

Every summer, about 40 children came to him for English tutoring. This summer, thanks to media reports on him, more than 60 children came to attend classes, a record high.

Luo Lihang, a senior at a university in east China's Shandong Province, was one of Liu's first students in the village. She learned English from Liu every summer before college. She has now become Liu's "teaching assistant," responsible for the daily management of his class.

One day last summer, it suddenly rained just as class was about to begin, but there was no room big enough to accommodate all the students. Luo said in order not to delay the class, Liu let all the students sit under the eaves while he stood in the rain with an umbrella to give lectures.

So far, more than 100 local students have attended Liu's classes, many of whom have been admitted to universities and some are even pursuing doctoral degrees.

Villagers once proposed to pay tuition fees, but Liu rejected this proposal. Some gave him gifts to express gratitude, but he chose not to accept the gifts. Liu said that teaching had become a part of his life, and he did it neither for fame nor profit.

Before he wrapped up this year's summer holiday and returned to Chongqing, he made a pact with the children that he would see them again next year. Enditem

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