Woman devoted to rural girls' education written into book of PRC's history, captures hearts
Published: Oct 21, 2021 09:38 PM
Zhang Guimei with her student Photo: VCG

Zhang Guimei with her student Photo: VCG

Zhang Guimei has dedicated her life to improving girls' education in a remote, mountainous region in Southwest China's Yunnan Province by starting the country's first free high school for female students. Her story has moved millions of Chinese people and is now written into a newly published Brief History of the People's Republic of China (PRC) — making a splash on social media on Thursday after the books reached readers. 

Zhang, 63, the founder and principal of Huaping High School for Girls in Huaping county of Lijiang, Yunnan Province, is legendary not only because she started such a free school for girls who dropped out for economic reasons, but also her huge commitment for decades to persuade girls to study hard and change their destinies. 

Despite its disadvantaged location and resources, Zhang's school ranked top on the rate of graduates entering universities in Lijiang. Since 2008, nearly 2,000 girls from Zhang's school have entered universities and change their lives via education. 

The brief history described Zhang as a moral model who is willing to "burn herself to light others," and uses love and wisdom to help thousands of rural girls realize their dreams. A photo of Zhang smiling with her students in Huaping captured hearts. 

"She deserves it!" read a comment on Sina Weibo regarding Zhang's being written into history. 

"Everyone who has been to the remote plateau region must understand what a huge difference Zhang has made for those girls," another Weibo user wrote. 

The hashtag of "Zhang being written into brief history of PRC" topped the most searched list on Thursday night. 

Zhang dedicated her youth, health and enthusiasm to the great cause of education. When she worked as the chief of a care center for homeless children, she noticed that many poor families sent their sons to school but not their daughters. 

Start-up money for the school was raised by Zhang, who asked for donations on the streets from 2002-07. The situation became better when her aspiration was covered by a reporter in 2007 and donations from across the nation arrived. 

Zhang was recognized as one of the "10 people who moved China in 2020." She was also a recipient of China's July 1 medal. 

Yang Xuedong, a professor of political science at Tsinghua University, said that compiling Zhang's story into the book on the PRC's history will serve as an inspiration for many to contribute their efforts to the cause of rural revitalization. 

 Zhang's greatness lies not only in her imparting knowledge to her students, but also in helping them build their character, a virtue. Many of her students gave up opportunities in big cities and chose to return to their hometown, to build it into a better place, Yang told the Global Times on Thursday. 

With those village-born talents, who have knowledge, wisdom and aspirations, revitalization of the nation's rural areas will be possible, Yang noted. 

The latest version of A Brief History of the People's Republic of China, with seven chapters and 40 sections, was jointly published by the People's Publishing House and the Contemporary China Publishing House.