This Inspirational Chinese Village Teacher Single-Handedly Taught Hundreds of Orphans

 

I was never fond of elementary school. In fact, I was one of those kids who could never pay attention to anything but the sound of the ticking clock in the classroom, counting down the minutes until I could grab my friends and run outside to the playground.

Sound familiar? Well, maybe this story of a Chinese villager will change your mind about your animal cracker-eating days that have long since passed. Perhaps it will even make you feel nostalgic for your childhood as well.

Zeng Xiangwei was a villager living in rural Hunan (a province of south-central China), who was left to raise his two grandchildren. Despite the poor conditions of his home, Zeng raised them with his wife and gave them a proper family life.

 

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But his warmth and generosity didn’t just end there. Thirty-eight years ago, Zeng also volunteered to teach orphaned children in an old, dingy, abandoned warehouse that was converted into a school in the ’60s. Now at the age of 56 and doing double duty as headmaster of the school, Zeng has taught more than 600 children — 10 of whom have even gone on to study at universities in China. He is also the only teacher at this institution.

 

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To this day, he continues to teach his current 13 students with curricula that he plans and prepares by himself, but also makes sure to include fun activities.

 

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The crafty man also teaches his students the art of paper-folding.

 

 

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In addition to being a fatherly figure to his grandchildren and students, Zeng is also the village handyman and always steps up to fix satellite TVs wherever there may be a bad connection. On top of all of that, he returns home every day to tend to his three acres of rice fields.

 

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Zeng, who was nominated as one of the best village teachers in Hunan, says he has plans to retire in four years, but that he “has never regretted” the last 38 years of his life, single-handedly teaching hundreds of children.

 

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Why is This Strange Contraption Popping Up in Chinese Classrooms?

As Rocketnews24 points out, this strange, new device can only remind us of one thing: roller coasters.

In reality, the orange bars have absolutely nothing to do with theme parks. Wuhan City, China has introduced these bars into an elementary school’s first grade classroom. Each bar is drilled into the wooden tables of school children in an effort to preserve the eyesight of the students.

“According to the headmaster of the school, the desks were provided by a local centre advocating preventative care for eyesight deterioration amongst young people,” Rocketnews24 points out.

So how does it work?

As you can see, the bar forces the child’s head back. The student cannot hunch over too closely to their desk. In this way, they are encouraged to stay a certain distance away from whatever they’re writing.

The goal is that the bar will “help prevent the development of shortsightedness, or myopia, which has been linked to focusing on things too near-at-hand for significant lengths of time.”

Additionally, the bar can be moved back and double as a prop for books to make sure the student is seated far back enough from the book while reading.

We’re not quite sure we like the idea of a giant bar of steel practically begging a child to bump his/her head on it, but we’re definitely interested to see the long-term effects of this device. What do you think?

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(source)

Even After Being Bullied Mercilessly, Harnaam Kaur Learned to Embrace Her Beard

Kids can be cruel. This was certainly the case for Harnaam Kaur who started growing facial hair at the young age of 11.

“I got bullied badly,” she recalled. “At school I was called a ‘beardo’ and things like ‘shemale’ and ‘sheman.’”

Harnaam Kaur has polycystic ovary syndrome which causes thick hair growth. In a desperate effort to look more like the other girls at school, Kaur would try waxing, bleaching and shaving, but her efforts proved only temporary. The hair would grow back quickly and in some cases, more thicker.

Unable to stop the hair growth, Kaur was forced to face cruel taunts and even online death threats from people who didn’t accept her.

“I can laugh about it now,” Kaur admits, “but back then it affected me so badly that I began to self harm because it felt better than all the abuse I was getting. I’d talk to people with a hand over my face and I wore baggy, tomboy clothes to cover up the hair on my chest and arms. I didn’t want to go outside my house because I couldn’t take the stares from strangers so I’d lock myself in my room. It got so bad that I just didn’t want to live any more.”

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Her outlook on life suddenly changed when she decided to be baptised as a Sikh – a religion where it is forbidden to cut body hair. Her parents were originally opposed to the idea. They believed that she would not be able to get a job or a husband with her beard, but Kaur was determined to turn a new leaf. She knew she needed a new outlook on life and she needed a way to end the suicidal thoughts.

Her decision has helped her embrace her physical appearance.

“I would never ever go back now and remove my facial hair because it’s the way God made me and I’m happy with the way I am,” she says. “I feel more feminine, more sexy and I think I look it too. I’ve learned to love myself for who I am nothing can shake me now.”

With her new-found confidence, Kaur has no problem doing the things that made her uncomfortable before: wearing dresses, putting on jewelry and getting her nails done. She even shares her story to the public despite death threats.

“All that matters to me at the moment is that I love myself,” Kaur explains. “I love my beard and all my other little quirks – my tattoos, my scars, stretch marks and blemishes. I want other women to find the strength that I have. If I had any message it would be to live the way you want – it’s your journey and it’s your life.”

(Source 1, 2

You Won’t Believe How They Paid For Their Son’s Tuition

With the rising cost of education, many families are left wondering if they can even afford to send their children off to college. The Asian community, however, is known to endure many obstacles in order to ensure an education for their children. Why? College is seen as a necessary step towards a better life- one in which parents will do nearly anything to achieve.

This appears to be the case for Jiagu Zhu and Jianying Liu, a couple in Hengyang, China. The couple realized early on that they would have to work hard to get their children into college in hopes of an easier future. To reach their dream the husband and wife rented a factory unit  in 2004 and got to work.

How was the determined couple planning to send their sons to college? By collecting and recycling over 180kg of plastic (about 7,000 plastic bottles) each day.

According to RocketNews24, the couple must both work tirelessly everyday to make a living. Mr. Jiagu Zhu rides through the streets on his tricycle and alleys to collect discarded plastic and Mrs. Jianying Liu separates and cleans the collected bottles.

“Having it tough is a fortune in disguise, as after the bitter times there will be sweet times. After putting in hard work, you’ll reap good results. We’re countrymen, there’s nothing we’re afraid of. We’re not afraid of leading a hard life, we’re not afraid of exhausting work, we can carve out a happy life with our bare hands,” says Mr. Zhu.

After ten years of hard work, the couple has been able to send both their sons to college and one to Germany to pursue his PhD. To them, all their hard work was entirely worth it.

 

You Won’t Believe What These Kids Risk Their Lives For

Our 2014 resolutions may be filled with dreams of a healthier diet, a proper sleep schedule and less procrastination. But there’s something many of us have overlooked for the new year. How about the resolution to be more thankful?

By simply reading this, you already prove that you have a lot to be appreciative of. You have access to a computer and more importantly, you have had an education which taught you how to read. And let’s be honest now. In the midst of worrying about school, work, or what your future will look like, you probably haven’t taken some time out of your day to be thankful for the luxury of literacy, right?

Well, now is the time.

I’m sure many of us can remember some grumpy mornings getting up for school. But in reality, we didn’t have much to complain about compared to kids around the world who walk miles, climb dangerous bridges and risk their life every day simply to get to school and have an education.

You’ll definitely think twice before complaining about early morning traffic.

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A child using what is left of a bridge in Indonesia.

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Collapsed bridges in Indonesia.

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Children in the Philippines using an inflatable tube to cross flooded rivers.

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Planks dangerously over aqueducts.

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school 9 school 10 school 11Students who swim through rivers to get to school in Vietnam.

(Source)

Drastic Changes in Asian American SAT Scores

The results are in and you are warned– they’re not pretty.

American highschools, as a whole, are entering a downward spiral with their SAT scores. Since 2006, SAT scores have fallen by 20 points,  dropping from 1518 to 1498 in 2012. The decrease is hitting all three portions of the test: reading, mathematics, and writing.

What could make matters worse? These changes in both the SAT test and the resulting scores are hitting minority groups the hardest. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing reports that the average score for white students has fallen by 4 points. How have the minority groups fended over the years? The average score has fallen by up to a staggering 22 points.

There is, however, one very large exception to this trend. Asian Americans have not been affected in the same manner over the years. In fact, they’ve had the opposite outcome. Since 2006, the SAT scores of Asian Americans have risen by an astounding 41 points.

Researches, such as those from collegenews.com, have tried to look at the various factors that may have contributed to this strange phenomenon. They pointed out that Asian Americans excelled particularly well in mathematics, but they believe this is due to the fact that 47% of Asian American SAT candidates took advance mathematics courses while only 31% of Latino students and 25% of Black students took similar courses. So the explanation is that study prep is the reason behind the staggering disparity?

Asianweek‘s Andrew Lam also took a look at these results and argued that a much greater factor to look at is the mentality of Asian Americans. Lam recalls a friend of his who explained to him why success was necessary. “There was no question of failure,” Lam writes. “Back home, an army of hungry, ambitious and capable young men and women were dying to take his place, and for [his friend], a boat person who barely survived his perilous journey across the South China Sea, “dying to” was no mere idiomatic expression.”

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Simply put, our circumstances have often been drastically different. Asianweek points out that it is not uncommon to find Asian parents who focus their entire life on the upward mobility of their children. They sacrifice their own well-being, work three jobs and even live in separate countries to ensure that their children get the necessary prep and education to advance in society. All of this sacrifice is done with the single goal that their children will go on to succeed and have a better life than they did.

Knowing that many of our parents struggled to benefit our education and many individuals in our homeland would ache for the opportunity, how can we not feel the often overwhelming pressure to achieve? How can we not take the extra prep classes? How can we not spend our nights studying for fear that all the sacrifice was for nothing? This pressure, which can drain us mentally and emotionally, is often what pushes us.

Yes, educational prep courses play a factor. But no, that simple explanation does not accurately show the circumstances and pressures placed upon our community. It’s much more complicated than that.

 

 

Too Harsh? Korean Parents Introduce “The Study Cube”

A tiny study room about the size of a large portable toilet is becoming a sought after piece of furniture among Korean parents who wish to help their children stay focused while hitting the books.

Last year, South Korea’s environmentally-friendly furniture manufacturer Emok unveiled the Study Cube, a wooden box just big enough to seat one person in front of a built-in desk. The box comes with a bookshelf, whiteboard, LED light, outlet and ventilation grill. There’s even a massage bar under the desk that also serves as a footrest.

“Students can avoid distractions of staying at libraries with the Study Cube,” Emok CEO Choi Ki-ju said. “It will also help them focus on their studies more.”

The Study Cube retails for about $2,200.

Story by Steve Han. This article was originally published in KoreAm Journal.

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