Quake offers lessons in rebuilding lives

Updated: 2013-04-26 07:50

By Tang Yue (China Daily)

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Baoxing's great hope

Baoxing is well known in China as the hometown of the panda. The first recorded sighting of the animal happened there in 1869. Sadly, the place is not as famous for "good students".

During the school's 58-year history, not one of its graduates has attended Peking or Tsinghua universities, China's elite educational establishments.

Two-thirds of the county's students with the highest scores in the senior high school entrance exam choose to study outside Baoxing, according to Li Fangling, the school principle.

Quake offers lessons in rebuilding lives

Students pack up their books at a school in Baoxing county, Sichuan province, on Wednesday, as they prepare to move to the provincial capital Chengdu to resume classes. Tang Yue / China Daily

But this year's batch of 12th-grade students has worked harder than any of their counterparts in the past few years and great things were expected of them.

A sobering message had been written on the blackboard in Classroom No 3: "12 years for 9 hours", referring to the number of years the students have studied since primary school compared with the combined duration of the gaokao exam.

"We cannot rely on the relief workers forever. We have to build a new life by ourselves," said Zhu, from the county's education bureau, in his opening remarks to students on the day classes resumed.

"You are the future of Baoxing. You are the hope of Baoxing. I hope you can conquer all these difficulties and achieve good results in the gaokao."

Instead of the regular curriculum, the students listened to a lecture delivered by Chen Ting, a psychological therapist, which replaced the first lesson.

Chen encouraged the students to articulate their fears, and provided relaxation tips. Unlike Zhu, she also played down the importance of the upcoming exam.

"Gaokao is not the only way to a good life and might not be the best choice for everyone. And do remember, you are taking the exam, not your teachers or your parents. So just take it easy, don't carry an extra burden," she advised.

Leaving for Chengdu

When the afternoon's first lesson ended at 2:45 pm, the class teacher Yu Shiming brought more bittersweet news: Like their peers from Lushan and Tianquan, the Baoxing students were to be relocated to study in Chengdu. They were scheduled to leave on Thursday morning.

"I was happy to learn that because it is really hard to study without fear here. It will also be my first trip to Chengdu, the furthest I have ever traveled from my home," said Yang Xin, who constantly ranks as one of the top 10 students in his class.

"But I haven't been back home since the earthquake. My parents told me that the house is still habitable, but I'm afraid they only said that for fear of distracting me from my studies," said the 18 year old from Lingguan town, 15 km south of the county seat. Yang was right to be concerned; his hometown suffered some of the worst devastation caused by the quake.

After Yang phoned home to tell his family about the relocation plan, his parents rode a motorbike from their home to the county seat to see him before he left for Chengdu, 200 km away. They gave him spending money of 700 yuan ($113).

"Our family's economic situation is not very good. It's a great comfort that he studies hard and doesn't spend his money on useless things," said Yang's mother, farmer Li Xiuying.