The School With Three Students

From Zen Soo at SCMP:

Ten years ago, the grounds at Lumacha primary school in remote Dingxi, a farming village in the mountainous region of China’s Gansu province, overflowed with 300 students during class breaks.

Today the schoolyard is a lot quieter: there are just three students.

Migration to cities. That’s where the jobs are. But so long as one student is enrolled, a rural school stays open.

It is during these online lessons that the three students get a glimpse of the world beyond their village, interacting with students from other schools.

Lumacha primary school is one of 28 schools in four educational zones which are part of a “Sunshine Classroom” initiative run by Shanghai-based Hujiang EdTech. The initiative is part of Hujiang’s corporate social responsibility programme Hu+. Established in February last year, Sunshine Classroom brings together schools from four educational zones in Dingxi, allowing teachers to share resources by live-streaming lessons to other schools.

Before the Sunshine Classroom initiative, the three Lumacha students had never attended any arts and crafts or music classes, according to school principal Feng, who has been teaching at the school for over a decade.

“None of the teachers here, including myself, have any knowledge of music or art. We would use the time to go over core subjects like mathematics or language instead,” said Feng.

In the USA, even an elementary school teacher with no music or art knowledge would try to fake it or perhaps learn alongside their kids. It’s hard to imagine them only going deep on math.

At Lumacha primary, Feng also teaches English to the three boys, though he admits his understanding of the language is limited.

“I specialise in teaching Mandarin, but because there isn’t anyone to teach English here any more, I have no choice but to try my best,” Feng said.