Night hike

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-9-16 19:28:01

Pei Xianzhi, 7, holds out a flaming torch while he walks to school on a path in the mountains. Photo: IC


When he comes home from school over the weekends, Pei helps his family do chores. Photo: IC


Pei hugs his father, Pei Chengyong. He works in a city 300 kilometers away from their home and doesn't come back often. Photo: IC


Pei reads a book in his school dormitory. Photo: IC

Pei eats a meal provided by the school cafeteria. Photo: IC


Before dawn broke, 7-year-old Pei Xianzhi was already out of bed and dressed. Then, his grandfather tied strips of pine bark together to make a torch. He then dipped the torch in pine oil and lit it on fire.

Pei took the torch from his grandfather's hands and held it up high. Then he walked side by side with his grandfather, following a small rocky path through the forest, to school.

Pei repeats this routine every week. He lives deep in the mountains of Yichang, Central China's Hubei Province, about five kilometers away from the nearest elementary school. But because the steep mountain is more than 1,100 meters above sea level, there isn't a school bus that can pick him and his neighbors up from home.

Pei spends his weekdays living in the school dormitory and weekends at home. Every Friday, his grandfather walks over an hour to pick him up, and on Monday morning, he gets up early and walks in darkness to school.

The school has 97 children who are mostly from mountainous areas. Twenty of them have their tuition waived, but because Pei's grades don't stand out, he isn't one of them.

Pei Xianzhi's father Pei Chengyong is 38 years old and works at a factory. He only comes home on vacations.

"It doesn't matter how much work I need to do, I just want Xianzhi to get a good education, so he won't be stuck in poverty like us," Pei Chengyong said.

Children who graduate from the school usually hope to continue their education in the cities. Otherwise their only choice is to go back and help their parents in the fields.

In the past, there have been examples of students who studied in the mountains but went on to college eventually. Media reported that about 100 out of 1,000 students from a village elementary school in North China's Hebei Province went to college. Certainly, many in Pei's school want the same thing.

"Almost all the children in my class hope to make a living outside the mountains," one of Pei's teachers said.

Global Times

Posted in: In-Depth

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