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Dancing their way to higher education

By Sun Ye (China Daily)

09:33, March 06, 2013

Cheng Cheng, lead dancer of The Goddess of Mercy of a Thousand Hands by the Chinese Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe, will soon start classes at China Youth University for Political Sciences. (China Daily)

>> Dancers unlimited by disabilities

Cheng Cheng is one of the angelic faces performing the dance, The Goddess of Mercy of a Thousand Hands. She spends most of her waking moments practicing her dance steps, without music.

Soon, she and her 22 dancing partners in the troupe, all with hearing disabilities, will have another mission: obtaining a college diploma like other people their age.

These young artists, ages 18 to 31, belong to the Chinese Disabled People's Performing Art Troupe.

Having passed the national examinations for self-taught adults in October, 2012, they will start school at the China Youth University for Political Sciences on March 11. CYUPS is the first Chinese institute of higher education to enroll disabled students and offer State-certified college degrees.

Cheng Cheng and her friends will be in one class, majoring in social services. The three-year curriculum covers more than 15 subjects, including sociology, psychology, theories of public relations and internship.

Yang Peng, president of the school of continuing education of CYUPS, says the school is engaging new sign language teachers. It will also make an adjustment to the curriculum to suit the students' needs, like shifting the usual focus on English speaking to reading.

"The students of the troupe will learn and be tested just like other students. They'll also get hands-on experiences in the real world," Yang says.

Tai Lihua, the president and art director of the troupe, hopes her young members will use the opportunity to pave their way to a better future.

"Entering a 'normal' university means they have a much better chance of realizing their dreams and being successful in whatever they hope to be. Education will broaden their horizon and they will blend into society better," she says.

China has more than 20 million people with a hearing impairment but there are only a few schools that offer high-level education.

Cheng Cheng, who's been dancing for six years, hopes to become a social worker after she retires and serve the disabled in her hometown in Jiangsu province.

She is gearing up for the new school term. "I know there will be obstacles but I'm really excited to go to college. I'll work doubly hard!"

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