Teacher dedicates life to rural students

2021-03-23 12:03:42

Nong Jiagui talks with students at the school gate in Luosongdi village in Guangnan county, Yunnan province, in 2015. [Photo provided to China Daily] Educator still going strong after more than three decades in isolated village. Zhao Yimeng reports.This is the 35th year that Nong Jiagui has been at his post as a village teacher in Guangnan county in the southwestern province of Yunnan. When, at age 19, he "accidentally" became the first teacher in the village, which was once an isolated treatment center for people with leprosy, the 54-year-old didn't expect to stay in the deep mountains for so long. In 1957, the settlement was built as a dedicated center for more than 180 patients with leprosy and their families from nearby Bawang village. The condition-a chronic infectious disease that mainly causes skin lesions and nerve damage-was prevalent in Southwest China during the 1950s. The new village was located in a deep mountain valley and it was taboo for nearby villagers to even mention it by name, so they called it the "leprosy village" or "that place". Nong, a member of the Zhuang ethnic group, lived 10 kilometers away. He grew up hearing rumors about "that place" and was scared by his parents' feigned threats to "send me to the village if I did not behave". Many years later, though, he moved to the village to teach local children. Nong dropped out of school in 1986 because his family couldn't afford the tuition fees. Despite that, his uncle, a rural teacher, recommended that the young lover of literature should become a teacher "somewhere". He didn't realize that "somewhere" meant "that place" until he was leaving. Nong firmly refused to go and his father blamed his uncle for "ruining the boy's future". His uncle insisted that Nong should "take a look at the place, where teachers were needed. He said I could find another place with teaching opportunities later".