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First Day at School for Girl 'Jailed' by Her Mother

Jiang Wei enjoys a normal life.


A girl, locked up at home for nearly 15 years by her mentally-ill mother, finally started school on Friday.


Jiang Wei, 16, spent her first day of school at Tongxiang Elementary School in the Dongli District of Harbin, capital of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province


"I like everything here," she said. "The teachers and my classmates all treat me well."


A lot of work had gone into ensuring Jiang's first day was a success, the school's vice-principal Fu Chuan said.


"Taking into consideration her intelligence and age, we decided to put her straight into the fifth grade," he said.


Pupils in the fifth grade are usually around 11 years old.


Ma Xin, Jiang's new teacher, said she was delighted to welcome her new student, who is quiet and prone to blushing.


"Although she was separated from the outside world for so many years, she has easily adapted to school life," she said. "I can tell from her eyes that she likes it here."


Ma said she did not reveal Jiang's former life to her classmates.


"I just said that she is a girl from a family which has financial difficulties.


"I do not want to make her uncomfortable or different in the eyes of her classmates," she said.


In July, China Daily reported the poor girl's sad and shocking story after she was saved by local police. Jiang's mother, Jiang Binlan, locked the girl in a small room at home shortly after she was born.


Almost at the same time of her birth, the mother divorced Jiang Wei's father.


Becoming increasingly unstable after the divorce, and fearing somebody would try to take her daughter away from her, the mother locked herself and her daughter in their home .


The situation was only uncovered when a neighbor told a local newspaper about the mother's strange behavior.


Local police eventually forced their way into the locked home and took the pair to hospital in mid-July.


Suffering malnutrition, Jiang Wei recovered relatively quickly. Her mother, diagnosed with schizophrenia, is still receiving treatment.


Though Jiang Wei had never spent a single day at school, her mother had given her some education.


Her uncle, Jiang Youzhi, a laid-off worker, is now the girl's legal guardian as her father is seriously ill.


Shi Guangping, director of Liming Community where Jiang Wei now lives, said the community would help shoulder her living costs to reduce the strain on her uncle.


The school has exempted her tuition fees and also provides a free lunch every day.


Li Guirong, 58, the girl's neighbour, is taking care of Jiang Wei.


"I just feel that she is so unfortunate and urgently needs some loving care," Li told China Daily, "I will treat her like my own child."


When asked how Jiang was after her first day at school, Li said "She is just a little tired after seeing so many things in her first day's study."


(China Daily November 8, 2005)

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