Enfants du Ningxia

When our organisation was first established, our aim was to enable girls who had been taken out of school to work in the fields and be married early to return to their studies. However, we now give scholarships to all children whose families can no longer afford to send them to school, enabling them to continue their education until graduation, thus giving them the possibility of a brighter future.
Mar 20, 2012

Student Testimony

Our association is organising a fundraising event at the French Cultural Centre in Beijing that is to be held at the beginning of June. We will display pictures of our students, as well as some of their stories. Here, we give you in advance the testimony of Ma Jing, a 24 years old student currently in her fourth-year of Medical school.

 

Challenges

Even if it costs a lot, my family really hopes that I’ll be able to continue until master’s degree’

Ma Jing is currently studying medicine. However, her family’s situation is very insecure: her mother is too weak to work and her father, whose left arm is disabled, is supporting the family by selling sheep wool at the local fair.

Ma Jing is the eldest child in the family. She considers it her duty to help her family out of poverty.

 

Education

‘Higher education offers me the possibility to succeed and change my life’.

Ma Jing is certain that studying will change her life. Even though she chose a long and difficult curriculum, she is perseverant.  Her parents are proud of her and encourage her to continue as long as she can, in spite of the financial burden it imposes on the family.

 

Future

‘I would like to become a general practitioner and work in an hospital’

Ma Jing dreams seem easy to fulfill now that she is already a fourth-year student, but her present situation is still precarious. Indeed, financial difficulties are a real problem for this family already severely affected by illness and disability. Despite all the challenges, Ma Jing is confident about her prospects. 

Jan 3, 2012

A sponsor describes our last field mission

Anne, one of our sponsors, came with us on a routine field mission to Ningxia in November 2011. Here is her account:

 

‘We took a night train from Beijing to Yinchuan, the provincial capital… 13 hours to cover 1200km… this ride went smoothly as the hard sleepers are quite comfortable enough to sleep in… we arrived in the morning, then took a taxi to the bus station where we hopped on a bus to Tongxin, a small town two hours and a half away south of Yinchuan, on the road to Xi’an. In Tongxin, Bai Juhua, the association’s local assistant and Ma Yan’s mother, was awaiting for us.

Shortly after, I discovered Ningxia’s traditional houses: long brick buildings surrounding a small courtyard. The freezing temperature was easily forgotten thanks to the vivid blue sky – Beijing’ s pollution seemed far away. I recognised the Hui physiognomy which I had discovered in Xi’an; although married women here wear a small blue hat.

We spent the afternoon visiting the students’ families in Tongxin and its surroundings in order to update their data and to verify if their actual situation matches with their declaration. I discovered the small rituals of each field mission: the family’s welcoming greetings, chatting, the house visit, the generous meal that they offer us and that we cannot refuse, firstly because it would be very rude and secondly because we are stunned by their generosity, knowing how much it represents to them. 

I realise that this “verification”, although legitimate vis a vis the association’s functioning, becomes quickly superfluous when entering a recipient’s home: one room for an entire family, a single stove as unique source of heating, sometimes a distinct sink, a big brick bed covered by thin mattresses on which the whole family sleeps and eats, a small table being punctually set on it. Doors stay open (if there is a door!), with thick sheets to protect from the icy wind. In brief, these people possess nothing, they subsist on their meagre crop harvest or micro trade, earning about 10,000 yuans a year for five people (minorities are not subject to the one-child policy). 

The two next days were dedicated to paying visits to families in smaller and remote villages, two hours away from Tongxin. We also stop in two schools built or furnished by the association. 

I suddenly realised how barren this region is, characterised by high plateaus and canyons, with barely a single tree left since the deforestation caused by the Great Leap Forward. Agriculture is the main source of income for these family, even though not much grows spontaneously here. It rains one week a year, but paradoxically, people grow corn and watermelons by diverting water from the Yellow River, which will probably be dried up within 50 years. There are also some vegetables growing in greenhouses. Mountains of corn are drying (rotting?) next to houses and on the side of the roads.

I also discovered the zones of  ‘new’ housing, lined up by the hundreds, ‘colonies’ that are the result of the country’s displacement policy which the province is eagerly implementing. The official reason is to provide appropriate housing to people in order to allow them to escape the poverty of the villages, offering them better living conditions near public facilities, such as schools and hospitals, or work. Paying families a visit in these new compounds does not really give the impression that anything has changed, or that their situation has improved in any ways.. same surface, same rustic character. In addition, the colonies we visited were located in the middle of nowhere… for example, a mother worked at the market situated 25 minutes away by car, but had no vehicle. Families do not move voluntarily, as we can imagine, they have to abandon their old home, often rented,  and buy this new one for 17000 yuans.. thus mortgaging their children’s future a little more.

In short, China is developing ever more quicky, the province’s capital Yinchuan is already a forest of buildings under construction, as every Chinese city experiencing a swift urbanisation process. The difference between the East coast and the countryside at the heart of the country is representative of a dramatically widening wealth gap …

 

If you wish to learn more about this association who is doing a remarkable but unknown work, please visit their website: http://www.enfantsduningxia.org/. As for me, it will remain a link with China, a very attractive country not reducible to its cliché.

Oct 14, 2011

Support for the teacher of Liumiao Hope School

 

Dear Friends,

If any of you are so inclined, please participate in the matching funds day on GlobalGiving!  This Wednesday, October 19th starting at midnight East Coast US time, all on-line donations will receive a 30% bonus as long as the $100,000 of matching funds last!

To inspire you, Blandine recounts below the touching story of the Liumiao Hope School and the plight of rural teachers.  Our partners at Earthpulse Foundation have agreed to help us by supplementing the salary of the single remaining teacher, Zhao Xinxia.

 In 2006, the French luxury company Hermès launched a limited edition of its famous "carrés" scarves designed with the logo of the association. These scarves were sold in Hong Kong for the benefit of Enfants du Ningxia. Thanks to the benefits of the sale, a program was launched in order to improve the school building and the teachers’ environment in the village of Liumiao.

The Hermès funds first allowed us to entirely rebuild the school in Liumiao (which was on the verge of collapse) and to finance the salaries of 3 untenured teachers in the new school from 2007 to 2010. Thus, in September 2007, the pupils were able to return to a brand new school with sufficient qualified teachers.

Following the administrative fusion of the villages of Hequ, Liumiao and Wantuan, the Educational Bureau of Tongxin decided it would no longer support the school in Liumiao. The teachers all decided to leave, and the government sent a new teacher, Zhao Xinxia, to take over the job by herself.  As the Educational Board relocated children to other schools, the number of students in Liumiao fell from 120 to 31. These remaining children are spread out in age from kindergarden through the second year of primary school. Zhao Xinxia is lauded by all as a good teacher, but her salary is far from reflecting this appreciation.

Zhao Xinxia's salary is very low (600rmb or 94 US dollars per month on an 8-month basis), and while she really loves her job, she needs money to survive. So, if her salary does not increase, she will have to find another job to survive, and would probably become a migrant worker or go to work in the fields. If that were to happen, the school would be left without any teachers.

We wanted to find a solution to save the school, so we decided to go see the mayor of the three villages to get his advice. According to him, it would be a good idea to help Zhao Xinxia, but the fact is that it is very difficult for her to teach the entire range of pupils from kindergarden to primary school. For him, it would be better to hire a second teacher, so that the pupils can be divided into two classes, thus improving the teaching environment.

We also went to talk with Zhao Xinxia and this is what we found:

 

She appears to be a very energetic woman who really loves to teach. During the interview, she was really proud to show us what she had achieved with the pupils this year (drawings, writing samples,…). She seems to really love and take care of "her" children.  A poignant example: as there is no heating system in the school, she brings her own stoves in order to heat the classroom in the winter months. As she told us, she does not want to work in the fields, but life is so difficult for her in Liumiao that, if she cannot earn a higher salary, she will be forced to stop teaching in order to survive.

As Zhao Xinxia seems to be a very competent teacher, this is what we are proposing to her :

Current situation : 600 rmb/month on an 8-month basis

Proposal : 700rmb/month on a 12-month basis

 

Her new contract will be drafted by Enfants du Ningxia, Zhao Xinxia herself, and the mayor of the village.

Thanks once again to Earthpulse for allowing us to offer Zhao Xinxia this increase in salary which is well worth it!  We will give you more news about how she is doing after our November field trip.  We also hope to find a second teacher to alleviate her task.

With all our thanks for your support,

Blandine Ricouart and Linda Mayer

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