Three kids, one teacher: how a tiny Chinese school keeps the flame of learning alive

The lone teacher in a tiny mountain village with a shrinking population remains committed to her young charges

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 October, 2017, 2:53pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 October, 2017, 12:55am

Bajiao Junior School may have only three pupils and one teacher, but it clings to its mission of educating children from a mountain village in southwest China.

The school’s enrolment has been shrinking since the 1990s in tandem with the population decline in the village of Bajiao in Chongqing municipality, as China’s urbanisation programme accelerated and many of the younger residents moved elsewhere to work.

When it opened in 1950, Bajiao Junior had around 100 students in six grades. Today it only teaches pupils from the first to the third grade.

After that, students transfer to nearby Guancang Junior, which supports its much smaller peer financially and regularly sends over teachers to help out.

Despite its small size, Bajiao – which now has less than 3,000 mainly elderly residents – recently embarked on a renovation to ensure it can continue to educate the local children.

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During the renovation this year, the classroom was refurbished while new books were provided for the library.

The school’s playground was expanded a few years ago. Inside the classroom, in another sign of the commitment to providing a top-notch up-to-date education to youngsters, a 42-inch TV set receives satellite signals and connects to the internet.

“The education quality is no less than Guancang Junior,” He Qicai, president of the latter school, told the Chongqing Daily newspaper.

The school’s only teacher, Kang Qingxiu, has been on the staff since 2004. Kang teaches Chinese, mathematics, drawing and music, but her duties also include preparing food, cleaning the school and keeping students healthy.

“The 10 minutes after morning reading is for marking homework , the next break is for cutting the meat and vegetables for lunch,” Kang said of her tight schedule. “And the rice needs to be steamed before the fourth class begins.”

Students’ test scores rival those of their counterparts at the school in town. Last year, a third-grade pupil who was struggling to pass at a previous school ended up getting A grades after transferring to the school

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Kang grew emotional as she recalled the bundle of silk flowers students bought her for the last Teachers’ Day. “They must have travelled to the town for the present,” she said with red eyes. “It’s a long way.”

Kang said she will stay on at the school as long as children in Bajiao attend it. “Kids [who] live in the mountains need to learn knowledge and know how big the world is,” she said.