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Rural teacher takes care of herdsmen's children in China's far west 
   2015-10-08 18:15:02    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: luchang

Rural teacher Kulishian Rxat. [Newsplusradio.cn]

Being a teacher in China's under-developed areas is widely seen as noble and respectful. It is more so if one chose to work in the rural areas of the country's far west Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region her whole life.

Liu Xiangwei has the story.


Kulishian Rxat in Class.[Photo provided to Newsplusradio.cn]

(Ambience: Children in school)

Kalamagai is a mountainous region in Altay, northwest Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and home to Kazakhs. Dingshan school is the only elmentary school in the remote pastoral area located 80 kilometers away from the neareast town.

Forty-three-year-old Kulishian Rxat has been teaching at the school since graduating from the local teacher's college at the age of 18. Now more than 20 years have passed.

"I was born into a herdsman family and grew up on the grassland. Every time I see these children, I think of the younger me. I think these children need me and I am more than willing to show them what I got, hoping it could influence their life choices and do some good for my hometown. This is why I settled down here."

For years, Herdsmen live a nomadic lifestyle so their children often take their class in a small temporary camp with a blackboard and a shabby table inside.

Kulishian says things were much more difficult when she was still a new teacher.

"It was difficult back then. The floor was bumpy. Most tables and windows were broken. We did not have charcoals, so students had to fetch some woods outside to make fire during class breaks. Usually three or four children shared a table."

It was common for children in this remote and underdeveloped place to drop out of school. Kulishian says in the 1990s, her classroom was usually half empty since some students were asked to help at home during herding seasons. Only very few of them were able to finish nine years of compulsory education.

For Kulishian, it is her primary job to persuade more children to stay.

"Most of the children live 40 or 50 kilometers away, sometimes it took me seven or eights hours riding a bicycle through muddy roads to meet their parents. When it rained or snowed, we had to ride horses for hours. I told the parents it was not right - the children had to go to school. Some of them listened while others refused to take my advice."

(Ambience: Kulishian talks with parents, students)

In a Herdsmen's camp, Kulishian is helping their children with homework. After running around and making continuous efforts to explain the importance of schooling, dozens of students have been kept in school by Kulishian and her colleagues.

However, keeping the herdsmen's children at school is just part of the job. Like most rural teachers in China, she is always swamped by her duties at school due to the extreme shortage of staff.

Kulishian is talking with student's parents. [Photo provided to Newsplusradio.cn]

"Back then I had over 30 classes a week, that is six classes a day. At night, I graded homework and made preparations for the next day. Also I was with students during night study for one and a half to two hours and answered their questions."

The low salary and difficult life prompted most teachers leave, so the first thing Kulishian did after becoming a principal was to expand the school to make it more attractive to both the students and staff. And that is in line with the general trend of rural schools in China - to put more students into bigger and more advanced boarding schools.

Kulishian also uses a lot of creative elements in teaching. She promotes Mandarin education in the school and made traditional folk dancing part of the PE class.

(Ambience: alashi uli tobi dancing)

Alashi uli tobi dancing, also called "Hei Zou Ma" in Chinese, is an intangible cultural heritage for Kazakhs. In 2008, Kulishian added it to the exercises between classes in her school. After a year, almost all primary and middle schools in the Altay region did so.

"The education authorities found that it was a creative outdoor activity. It is a combination of traditional and new choreography. So now every school in the Altay Region does this. It is not just a new way of making students do more exercise - it is also a way of preserving traditional culture."

Principal Kulishian keeps a close personal relations with students just like the old times when she taught small classes.

"I am always in school to see whether they have enough to eat and at night check their dorms and tuck them in. Sometime I show young students how to make bed. I think I make a better teacher than a mom."

The rural teacher chokes up when talking about her students. As a teacher working in the remote pastoral area for decades, Kulishian has sacrificed a lot of her personal life. She lives separately with her husband and she does not have much time to take care of her daughter. Luckily she has a very supportive family.

Bharti Buick is Kulishian's husband.

"She became a teacher in 1990 and became a principal in 2003. She stays at school during daytime and takes care of the students at night. She is always worried about the safety of those herdsmen's children."

(Ambience: Kulishian singing song)

This is Kulishian's favorite local tune called Song of Mother. 25 winters and summers have witnessed the contributions and sacrifices of this rural teacher.

"I wanted to be a teacher since I was a child. I lived close to my school when I grew up. My teachers always came to my house to see me. I was the class monitor so sometimes I shared some teaching duties. I like teaching. I like answering questions."

(Kulishian singing, ending)

For Studio+, I'm Liu Xiangwei.


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