The Questions of Left-behind Children
In 2019, the company organized a group of people to teach at a minority junior high school in the mountains. The main purpose was to share their own lives. Before sharing, the person in charge repeatedly reminded us not to say that we were there for poverty alleviation so as not to hurt the self-esteem of the children.
When we arrived, we found that their school was very new and good, and it didn't seem like poverty alleviation at all. The classrooms were equipped with large touch screens, and other basic facilities were close to those of city schools except for dry toilets. So it seemed that these children were indeed living well. Why doesn't poverty alleviation target schools that need more help? This was our initial question.
During the sharing session, a colleague talked about his childhood experience in a mountain village where they rode bicycles with crossbars because they couldn't reach them due to their short height. Immediately after he finished speaking, one student answered excitedly that this type of bicycle is called "28-inch bike". It turned out they still ride this kind of bike now! When asked if they had ever been outside the mountains, only one student raised his hand and said he had been to Qixingtan (a place). The questioner did not realize how inappropriate his question was until then; everyone else did not know where Qixingtan was.
So it's clear that they are quite poor.
At least it's similar to what my colleague experienced over ten years ago - which means this area is decades behind society at least. According to the principal's introduction, most of these children are left-behind children whose parents work outside.
The original intention of giving lectures according to communication with the principal was: These kids have been spoiled by national policies supporting ethnic minorities because people here will feel like even if they don’t do anything themselves there will be food on their table anyway due policy bias towards them. Therefore, our goal is to awaken their desire to "see the world" by themselves.
After the lecture, a colleague said she felt that the students had seen through her because when she tried to guide them on values, she found that they already knew what to say. For example, when asked how to improve their lives? The students answered in unison - "study hard".
So obviously we are not the first team to come here.
According to the principal's words: "People often come." Seeing his expression of indifference, it seems he thinks we are just people who want to show off our love for others and post about it on social media.
This school is indeed filled with poverty alleviation love and has modern equipment and high-rise buildings. But apparently besides this, there hasn't been much change in local student life such as being left-behind children or riding 28-inch bikes or unknown places like Qixingtan.
Later volunteers summarized that this trip was indeed not for poverty alleviation but rather for inspiring hope. I thought of what the principal said about being spoiled; I remember many people online explaining problems in Daliangshan (a Yi minority area) saying that “because of ethnic minority policies supporting them most don’t want work”. But is solving poverty really so simple? Is donating money and effort enough? Is studying hard really an answer for all problems? It’s probably not that simple.
After the lecture ended, several little girls followed us all the way out of school gate. When we were ready to leave by car one girl cried; they clearly didn't want us outsiders who brought a glimpse of outside world leaving yet.
During question time one little girl wrote on paper: "The world is so big and I want to see it too! My wallet is small though so where can I go?" Another child wrote on paper: "Why do you talk so much nonsense? Why did you come here? Why do you talk so much about your own life?" It's clear that they also want to go out and see the world. Thinking of this, we volunteers who came and went felt a little guilty.
The following pictures are questions from these 12-13 year old children during question time; we found that most of them could not be answered.