Fuelled by dreams: Teacher from Guizhou mountains dedicated to rural education, sets shining example for ‘children like me’
Published: Oct 31, 2022 08:24 PM
Editor's Note:

Who is the Communist Party of China (CPC)? What is the CPC's role in the new era?

The CPC has grown into one of the largest parties in the world in the process of leading the Chinese people in seeking liberation and happiness, making China as strong and prosperous as it is today. 

As the CPC ushers the nation into a new era of development, the last decade has witnessed great achievements in national strength and prosperity, with people's confidence and recognition of this path rising to unprecedentedly high levels.

With more than 96 million members, the CPC concluded its 20th National Congress, which has realized the goals of unifying thinking, fortifying confidence, charting the course for a new era, and boosting morale. The Global Times is publishing a series of stories to help the world understand the CPC in this new era, through the stories of CPC members working on the frontlines of various fields, as well as through observations made by respected scholars.

This installment tells the story of a grassroots teacher and delegate to the 20th CPC National Congress from a mountain village in Southwest China's Guizhou Province, whose own experience is the best example of how rural education has been greatly improved in China in the past decade under the leadership of the CPC.

Wangmo county, Southwest China's Guizhou Province Photo: VCG

Wangmo county, Southwest China's Guizhou Province Photo: VCG

Liu Xiuxiang has had many identities. He was the son who took his mentally challenged mother to university. He was the graduate who gave up a good offer of employment in Beijing and returned to his impoverished hometown deep in the mountains. He has also won many social awards and is known as "the most beautiful teacher in China."

His honors brought Liu many offers. He could have lived an easier life in big cities, but he chose not to take the easy road.

Now, as the vice headmaster at the Experimental High School in Wangmo county in Southwest China's Guizhou Province, Liu is using his abilities to help less privileged children or facing social or financial difficulties to have more opportunities in education, which could change their fates. 

On top of being a teacher, in October, Liu gained a new identity - a delegate to the 20th CPC National Congress, representing his hometown Guizhou.

"I was so honored as this identity means so much. It shows that the country attaches great importance to education in rural regions," he told the Global Times on Sunday, with a hoarse, tired, yet delighted voice. After his return to Guizhou, he has busied himself delivering what he had learned from the significant meeting in Beijing.

"Standing in the Great Hall of the People, I was so proud to be the voice of rural education, letting the world see the strides taken in children's education in the mountains in China," he said.

Boy with a dream

In 2008, Liu came into the limelight for taking his mother, who suffered from mental illness, to a university thousands of miles away from his hometown when he was enrolled.

People called him the "good man of China."

He was then offered many lucrative opportunities, from financial donations to job offers in big cities, but he turned them all down. "I feel it was out of media promotion and sympathy from the society. Had I taken advantage of the offers given, I would have lived a much better life monetarily, but that would have led to the loss of my independence," he told the Global Times.

He chose to return to Wangmo, his hometown, to become a high school history teacher.

Liu Xiuxiang at the 20th CPC National Congress Photo:VCG

Liu Xiuxiang at the 20th CPC National Congress Photo:VCG

Liu comes from an underprivileged family. His father passed away when he was 4 years old. But he said he devoted himself to studying in school, believing it would change one's fate.

When he was in junior high school, he collected waste in exchange for money in his spare time, making friends along the way. "When I entered high school, I reminded them that they must not give up on their studies… but one girl did not make it. She went to work in another city after junior high, which is a huge pity."

But the choice made by Liu's friend to quit school so early for work helped him understand the value of dreams over temporary monetary gain. "Without my dreams, I could not have survived the difficulties I have faced in my life," said Liu.

Therefore, he decided to return to his hometown after graduation. "I want to come back to tell the children, who are as poor and lost as I was, that life is fuelled by dreams. Once you have your dream, you can fight for them."

Golden period

"In 2012, only 70 people in our county were admitted to universities. In 2022, more than 1,300 people have been admitted to universities, and each village has at least one college student," Liu said emotionally in front of the media during the 20th CPC National Congress in Beijing in October.

Wangmo county sees developing education as its key strategy. They gathered education resources and began to provide children with some of the best teachers and schools for primary and junior high education.

Over the last decade, with the country's increasing investment in rural education, rural education has undergone tremendous changes.

Moreover, in 2012, China's State Council published a document for the development of Guizhou, which was home to many impoverished mountainous regions. 

The province saw great improvements afterward, as infrastructure has been greatly improved to link every county, with every area having effectively shaken off extreme poverty.

This year, a subsequent document was published, which is expected to picture the blueprint of Guizhou in the new era.

"The last decade was a 'golden period of development' for Guizhou," Liu said. "There will be more to look forward to."

Students in a newly built school in Southwest China's Guizhou Province Photo: Li Hao/GT

Students in a newly built school in Southwest China's Guizhou Province Photo: Li Hao/GT

Headmaster the idol

In university, Liu read Edgar Snow's Red Star Over China, which motivated him to join the CPC.

"I was moved. Several pioneers could carry the big banner of national revitalization," he said. 

The spirit of early CPC members has always encouraged Liu to tackle his work head-on. "I would like to influence people and encourage them. This has been shown in my decade in education as a teacher," he said.

When asked who their idols are, students at the Wangmo school didn't hesitate to say "Headmaster Liu." They said his experiences have motivated more children to chase their dreams.

In May 2019, a workshop named after Liu was founded under the joint support of local government and the government of East China's Zhejiang Province, which aids Wangmo.

A key duty of the workshop is connecting donors with students in need, so that the students can receive financial support, or investment as Liu prefers to call it, during their studies in high school and university.

The workshop also works on organizing training teachers in merit education. Liu said that without care for your community and country, education is useless. 

"We need to help children in the mountains to build up their confidence," Liu told the Global Times.

In the last couple of years, Liu and his team have also been learning how to provide help not only for individual students, but also for the entire student body. 

"We want to elevate the quality of teachers available, letting them become mentors for the children."

When asked what messages he would like to deliver to the public the most thanks to his own experiences, Liu said that one thing is that people should have dreams, so that they can keep fighting when they fall down and are frustrated.

"Secondly, we should positively influence and empower others," he said.

That is one reason Liu decided to work in high school education in the county. He seeks to bury the seeds of hope in students in the classroom, telling them to take control of their own lives.

"When I came back to Guizhou, I thought that if I could change one person's fate, then it would be worthwhile," Liu said.

A decade on after his return home, Liu said he has helped many more people than he ever thought he could.