Updated: 2013-09-02 16:10
By Li Yang (China Daily)
Photo by Li Yang / China Daily
Gao cooks the students' subsidized breakfasts. Since 2012, the children have been able to eat breakfast for 3 yuan.
"I love these kids, too," Gao says.
"But I really don't want my child to grow up in the mountains. It can reach -18 C in winter. And there's no water."
Zhang pays a tractor to carry 1 ton of water from the closest town every month. He transports the milk, eggs and bread for the subsidized breakfasts on his motorcycle. He makes the 2.5-hour trip every two weeks.
"He fell off and injured his leg one rainy night," Gao says, crying.
"I thought he was dead."
Zhang believes the hardships are paying off.
"People have been gradually changing their attitudes toward education," he says. "Most of my students finish primary school with family support."
Several of his students have graduated junior high. And one boy has finished high school since 2004. This had never happened before in the five villages.
"They call to tell me about their lives. I feel my efforts paid off. They treat me like an old friend," Zhang says.
Zhang says he has never had problems with discipline, largely because the kids' religious beliefs require good behavior.
"I treat the kids like my own. We're family. That's the best part of being a teacher in the mountains."