At 8 AM yesterday, 45-year-old Yang Farong, the headmaster of Guanzhuang Middle School, rang the bell for the first time since it was silenced by the May 12 earthquake.
The school, in Guanzhuang township of Qingchuan county, in the north of Sichuan province, reopened in 37 rebuilt classrooms for 220 youngsters who survived the devastating quake, which claimed the lives of 13 of its students.
This was a memorable day for Yang and his students because it was a clear indication of the speedy recovery of a town dealt a hard blow by the disaster. "The relief work over the past 111 days has achieved an important result," Yang said.
Since the quake, Yang has been working flat out to rebuild his school together with students and teachers.
Yang recalled that thanks to the assistance of bodies such as the China Youth Development Foundation (CYDF), he has raised more than 130,000 yuan ($19,000) for the school's reconstruction. And now, 97 prefabricated school buildings have been built, including 37 classrooms and 60 dormitories.
"More importantly, today, I met my students again, who are healthy, happy and still hopeful for the future," the headmaster said.
Tu Meng, executive director of CYDF, said the foundation had done its best to ensure the reconstruction of the school in September, the start of the new school year in China.
"Whether we can resume students' classes on time is the most significant issue that will affect short-term reconstruction work and the long-term psychological rehabilitation of students in some of the worst-hit areas in Sichuan province," Tu said.
Dong Huijuan, a professional disaster psychology expert, said the start of the new semester was a particularly important stage in the youngsters' psychological rehabilitation.
For 14-year-old student He Zhongchen and his 52 classmates in the second-year class of Guanzhuang Middle School, the first class yesterday was English.
"No one in my dormitory fell asleep last night," said He. "We couldn't avoid recalling the scenes of May 12, but we hope for the future."
Fourteen-year-old He said that before the quake there were more than 100 houses across the river from the school, including his own home.
"On May 12, a huge stone tumbled down and none of the villagers could escape," he said. Since then, He has been living in a tent.
"I have no home and no parents after the earthquake. But now, I fortunately have a new home," He said. "I will live in the school dormitories, which are substantial prefabricated houses."
(China Daily September 2, 2008)