Teaching mathematics at a high school in a small and remote western
town, 23-year-old Hou Yujing learned something she couldn't have
Now a graduate student at Fudan University's journalism school, Hou
was one of 59 graduates from Shanghai who volunteered to teach in
China's western provinces. Different volunteers were sent to the
Ningxia Hui, Tibet, Inner Mongolia autonomous regions and Yunnan
Like Hou, most of the volunteers were motivated by a desire to help
children in western rural areas.
also hoped to learn more about my country," she said.
When the one-year placement came to an end last June, she found the
year worthwhile, even if not all her initial goals were
Hou was sent to Xinying Middle school, the only middle school in
Ningxia's Xiji County.
The extremely poor natural conditions there have pushed the United
Nations to classify it as unfit for human habitation.
But what impressed Hou most was not the hard living conditions, but
the poor quality of education children received.
Being a journalism student herself, she was assigned to teach two
math classes, because there were no other teachers available.
first, she was very nervous and upset.
"But I soon found out I am a good enough mathematics teacher for my
students," she said.
"The knowledge my students attained is far behind their
counterparts in big cities."
She concedes that one-year placements are too short to make any
"Nevertheless, I believe we still made our contribution because we
helped improve the local education and bring hope and the outside
world to the students," she added.
Fudan University has sent five groups of 29 students to Xiji
Country since 1999.
According to Qin Shaode, the university's Party secretary, Fudan
will continue to send volunteer teachers there.
Hou agreed. She said volunteers want to be sent to where they are
most needed, particularly remote villages short of qualified
"One year isn't too long for volunteers, but to the local students
it means a lot," she said.
For Shanghai-based universities like Fudan, sending students to
teach for short periods in poverty-stricken western areas is
another form of education.
"The volunteers have to learn to adapt to local environments and
overcome hardships that are impossible to encounter in Shanghai,"
said Zhou Ye, deputy secretary of the Youth League at Fudan
an incentive, the volunteers are admitted to graduate schools
without any examinations when they come back from their
(China Daily February 3, 2004)