School without students

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-1-3 18:38:01

A local farmer leads his goat down the street beside Biaoshan Elementary School in Yongjia county, East China's Zhejiang Province. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

Shao Shuangshuang teaches two third-grade girls and one fifth-grade boy in Biaoshan Elementary School. She is the only teacher still working at the school besides the headmaster.

The tiniest school in Zhejiang Province, Biaoshan school has only three students, although it occupies a building that can accommodate hundreds and is equipped with teaching facilities that rival the larger schools in nearby towns.

The school, located in the mountains of Yongjia county, was first established in 1897 during the Qing Dynasty, but now faces closure due to the shortage of students.

Headmaster Wu Jun said that when he first came to the school eight years ago, it had more than 100 students, but has been suffering from a decline in student numbers ever since.

As the villagers either move to flat areas or into cities for work, they bring their children out of the mountains. Even students from nearby, lower mountains are reluctant to go to Biaoshan school which is 500 meters above sea level.

In early 2015, there were 14 students and five teachers, but after the summer vacation, several sixth-graders graduated and went to middle school, while several others were taken by their parents to attend school in the township. No new students enrolled in the new semester.

The trend coincides with the nation's policy combining smaller village schools into larger, more comprehensive central schools in an effort to provide higher-quality education. The policy has met with controversies as critics claim it causes inconvenience to students who have to deal with long commutes and that it damages the social structure of rural areas.

Faced with running out of students, Wu and Shao have had to adapt to the situation. However, they are determined to stick to their position as long as there is one student left in the school, they said.

Global Times

The only three students left in the school check their mobile phones during a break between classes. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

A student folds the national flag. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

All of the school's students arrive for a day of lessons. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

Shao Shuangshuang, the only teacher at the school besides the headmaster, teaches the students. Photos: Yang Hui/GT

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