'Miracle Principal' Enables Village Girls to Realize College Dreams

January 6, 2020
Editor: Wang Liyan
At around 5:20 am, Zhang Guimei arrives at the teaching building of Lijiang Huaping Girls High School. [Xinhua]

 

At 5:20 in the morning, Zhang Guimei, 62, Principal of Lijiang Huaping Girls High School, comes to the campus with a flashlight, patrolling, opening doors, and lighting. Each part of the large campus is "awakened" one after another in anticipation of the students' arrival.

The high school, established by Zhang, is the only free high school in China dedicated to girls from impoverished families. It is located in Lijiang City, Southwest China's Yunnan Province. 

Students of Lijiang Huaping Girls High School [Xinhua]

 

In 1996, Zhang was transferred from Dali City to Huaping County and worked there as a teacher. To her surprise, girls dropped out at a far higher rate than that of boys.

Zhang determined to make a change. Since 2002, she had been pursuing an "impossible dream" of setting up a free high school exclusively for girls from impoverished families in mountainous areas.

For more than five years, Zhang experienced difficulties, pain and sadness as she tried to establish the school.

"I want to run a girls high school at no charge. It's my dream to get all the girls in the mountains to study in the school," said Zhang. In 2007, as a deputy of the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Zhang's simple and affectionate words impressed countless people and attracted the attention of the Party committees and governments.

With the help from all sides, in September 2008, Huaping Girls High School opened, enrolling nearly 100 students from Huaping, Yongsheng, and Ninglang Yi autonomous counties. Recalling the day of the opening ceremony, Zhang still can't hide her excitement.

Zhang Guimei (R) inspects the attendance of students. [Xinhua]

 

"In general, students in the school have poor academic foundations and self-control. If there is no effective management and guidance, they cannot succeed in finishing their studies," Zhang said.

The responsibilities of running the school well and teaching students drive Zhang to work like a perpetual motion machine.

At Zhang's "home" — a bed in a dormitory in the school, she has four things beside the pillows — a flashlight, a small speaker, her mobile phone and painkillers.

At 5:15 in the morning, as soon as the mobile phone alarm sounds, Zhang immediately gets up, walks around the campus with a flashlight, turns on the lights on each floor of the teaching building, and wakes up the students with her small speaker.

"I hope students can observe discipline and cherish their time at school," she said.

Getting up early in the morning, Zhang keeps busy until 12:30 in the evening. Overwork all year round leads to serious illness. "Sometimes I really want to take a day to sleep well, but I can't. I'm afraid that as soon as I relax, the children will relax too," she explained.

Zhang Guimei with a student [Xinhua]

 

In the past 11 years, a total of 1,645 of her students have been admitted to universities. The school's comprehensive results on the college entrance examination topped those throughout Lijiang City for nine consecutive years.

"I don't want students to come back to see me and thank me after graduation. They should pursue their studies and dreams far and high without burden," Zhang added.

 

(Source: Xinhua/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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