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Teaching without pay for 25 years: The people helping special education school in E China

(People's Daily Online)    13:39, June 21, 2019

He Xingwu and his wife pick vegetables with their students. (Photo provided by Peng Haihui)

Sanlian Special Education School has survived for 25 years in Nanchang, the capital city of east China’s Jiangxi province, China Youth Daily reported on June 19.

After being relocated six times, the school now resides in a three-floor house of a periurban community, with bustling trucks, carriages and ox carts outside and a vast expanse of wasteland behind.

Too noisy for a school? No way! Most teachers and students here are deaf. They live and study in the school, and sign language is the only language they need in a world without a voice.

He Xingwu listens to a young teacher's class. (China Youth Daily/Ma Yuping)

The special education school was set up in 1994. Since its establishment, more than 300 deaf children from surrounding rural areas have studied here.

There is no admission threshold for applicants. The youngest is a four-year-old mentally disabled girl. Some of the enrolled students arrived after their 18th birthday to start grade one education.

Furthermore, those from extremely low-income families are exempt from tuition fees. Some students attend school with bare feet. They cannot afford a pair of shoes, let alone tuition fees.

He Xingwu, nearly 80 years old, is the principal of the school. He and his wife also suffer from hearing difficulties. They know the pain of those living in a silent world, so they often take money out of their own pockets to support the school’s operation.

Students communicate with each other during break. (China Youth Daily/Ma Yuping)

Besides these two, the school is joined by another three teachers who chose to work without asking for wages.

74-year-old Yu Xijian came to teach Chinese and math after retirement. He is much older than Li Shangjin, who was born in 1995, the youngest teacher here, with a mission of changing education for deaf people.

Wu Kaixuan studied IT at a technical school after graduating from the Sanlian Special Education School. After gaining some work experience, she came back to her old school and became a math teacher for seniors.

Later in 2006, He Biao, the principal’s son, joined this school to help with the school’s management and ease the pressure on his parents.

He Biao, principal He Xingwu’s son, teaches basic sign language to visitors from public service organizations. (China Youth Daily/Ma Yuping)

Nine years ago, the school was noticed by Peng Haihui, director of Nanchang Ahimsa Philanthropy Center, a non-government organization.

“What are the difficulties?” “What do we need?” Peng wrote the two questions on the blackboard during a plenary meeting, and later he brought the answers back to find organizations and companies that could match their demands.

He even started a blog to publicize the school.

2010 marked a turning point for all teachers and students at this school. Media arrived, so did the philanthropic organizations. More than 20 students went to visit the Shanghai Expo by train. They had never been to such a metropolis and saw high-rise buildings for the first time, one student recalled.

Now, He Biao and Peng Haihui are preparing to upgrade the school into a vocational and technical training school to provide knowledge as well as improve the working capabilities of deaf students. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)

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