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Retired US Teacher Has New Job -- Teaching Migrant Kids

When James McGetrick retired as a US high school teacher two years ago, he was not done with teaching.

He came to China to see how the education system works here - and ended up teaching children of migrant workers.

From giving gifts to offering free language classes, from repairing classrooms to raising funds for students, McGetrick, 60, has tried to get more people involved in helping the needy children.

"Everyone has the right to attain his or her personal goals - any child born anywhere in the world," said McGetrick, now a teacher at Worldlink Education, an English training firm in Beijing.

His latest charity effort, a rock 'n' roll concert last month in Beijing, raised 15,000 yuan (US$2,000) for students at Beijing Xinxin Migrant School.

Most of the participants were staff of Worldlink Education and their families and friends.

"We have been able to make a difference at the Xinxin school after two years of effort," McGetrick said.

"I want to do something for the children who study in very difficult circumstances," said McGetrick who pays regular visits to the school in a village in the northern outskirts of Beijing's Changping District.

McGetrick recalls the Christmas Eve of 2005, when he and his friends organized two buses loaded with 200 boxes of school supplies.

"When we arrived with the gifts, the students lined up to welcome us, making us feel like a football team running onto the field through a line of supporters.

"The children sang songs and we were reminded once again that it is much better to give than to receive," he said.

Since then, McGetrick and dozens of his fellow teachers have taken turns to offer free language classes two or three times a week at the school.

Despite government efforts to promote education for all children, migrant workers still find it hard to get their children enrolled in urban schools unless they can afford the exorbitant extra fees.

The Xinxin school is one of Beijing's roughly 200 schools that educate children of migrant workers.

Founded eight years ago, the school moved several times before settling outside the Fifth Ring Road as real estate prices in central Beijing have skyrocketed, said Wei Ruizhi, the headmistress.

"Thanks to the warm-hearted people's help, our students have built up confidence as they feel they are no longer neglected," Wei said.

But the children meet a brick wall when they finish their primary school education.

Because it is hard to find a middle school which accepts them in Beijing, the students have to return to their hometowns to continue their studies.

To provide continuous aid to some of those who go back home, McGetrick's team launched a scholarship fund this summer, offering 3,000 yuan (US$405) each year to help the students complete middle school.

Three sixth-grade students became the first beneficiaries of the scholarship.

"I was and always will be a student of Xinxin school where so many teachers, especially the aunts and uncles from abroad, love us. I will always do my best," said Zhao Dongsong, 12, who studies at a middle school in Xuanhua of Hebei Province.

(China Daily November 10, 2007)

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