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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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