The school with only one student

Starting last year, she has only had one student, Wang Hao, who is now in fifth grade

The school with only one student

Starting last year, she has only had one student, Wang Hao, who is now in fifth grade

27 February 2018 Tuesday 19:22
The school with only one student


Like many Chinese teachers, Chen Hongyan calls out "Class begins!" to greet the classroom. But at this village school, only one student stands up.

Chen has worked as a primary school teacher at Sanmenli village school in Gongzhuling City in northeast China's Jilin Province for 18 years.

Starting last year, she has only had one student, Wang Hao, who is now in fifth grade.

Before 2010, there were over a dozen teachers and 200 students at the village school.

"After 2010, most of the teachers retired. Now only physical education teacher Liu Haitao and I teach here," said Chen, 41.

Sanmenli village has over 1,000 people.

Over 200 school-age children have been transferred to a primary school in the township, about six kilometers away.

Wang Hao's father, Wang Hailong, insisted the student could get the best education in the village and saw no need for the boy to stay at the boarding school in the township.

He was also worried that it was unsafe for the boy to travel to and from the township school.

"The teachers in the village are rather committed and Wang Hao has gotten used to studying with them," said the father.

Wang is now in fifth grade and he will finish primary school in the village before going on to attend a middle school in the township. There is no middle school in the village. "

As long as there are students at the school, I need to teach here," said Chen.

She teaches Chinese language, mathematics, and English.

She teaches seven classes every day and also oversees Wang Hao's morning self-study sessions.

"If I left to work in the township, there would be no teacher to teach Wang Hao. As long as he wants to study here, I will not leave," she said.

The spring semester began at the school on Monday, but it is still cold in the classroom.

As Wang Hao reads books aloud, Chen adds coal to the stove to keep warm. The school gets only enough coal to heat one small classroom.

Physical education teacher Liu Haitao was away getting books and study materials from the township education bureau.

"I ran around the school courtyard with teacher Liu, but we could not organize a basketball match here because there are not enough players," said Wang Hao.

As China undergoes rapid urbanization, migrant parents take their children with them to cities, leaving fewer students to attend village schools.

In recent years, students have been grouped together to attend centralized town or county schools.

Many rural schools are left with very small numbers of students. In some areas, teachers at rural schools fill multiple roles, such as concierge and cook.

When Wang Hao finishes the sixth grade next year, his two teachers will be transferred to township schools.

"It will be unlikely for us to have any more students here. I'm focusing on teaching this one student to the end," said Chen.


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