"Spiritual" teacher, "boatwoman" keeps her students magic plus disneyafloat

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Wang Jinhua, a teacher and delegate to the 19th CPC National Congress, lectures her rural students on law and morals in Hainan in November. She was selected as a delegate because of her creative style and dedication to children. [Photo by Yuan Chen/For China Daily]

Rowing boats for her students was the most memorable thing of her 38 years of teaching, said Wang Jinhua, a mountain schoolteacher on western Hainan island.

Bamboo rafts, sailing junks and iron boats, the standard waterway tools for a boatman, are lasting images of Wang"s golden years, with hundreds of students at the remote mountain location called Fanda Primary School.

"We almost lost our lives when eight students and me fell into the water one day in 1982 when a strong wave hit our raft," said Wang, who has taught for 38 years. She hurt her waist while saving her students, and the injury has left lasting pain.

On rainy days, when roads to the only school for five villages, inhabited by the Li ethnic group, were often flooded with water up to 10 meters deep, Wang had to row a boat to pick up children going to and from the school four times a day along a 500-meter waterway.

She retired last year but continued teaching because there were not enough teachers.

"I am very grateful to teacher Wang and think of her as my mother," said Xiao Hua, now a doctor. "She gave me special help when I could hardly continue my school because of my family"s poverty."

"My aim was to have zero dropouts," Wang said. With a tiny salary and a spirit that would never give up on persuading parents to ensure education for their children, Wang has supported and "saved" many children, like Xiao, who otherwise could have dropped out.

"She taught us Chinese and music. She would read the textbook in Chinese and then explain, with animated gestures, the meaning in the Li and Miao dialects to help us to fully understand and cultivate our interest in learning," said one student.

For years, schooling has been difficult for village children because of the town"s seclusion. Teachers who braved the conditions as outside volunteers were scared off by the poor infrastructure.

Wang, the first high school graduate in Fanda-a local "golden phoenix", as the old Chinese saying calls a person with a good education-didn"t hesitate to take up teaching in 1979 after seeing many school-age children could not go to school.

Through her love and persistence, none of her students dropped out and hundreds left the mountains to seek a better life. About 200 have entered universities or colleges.

This has won her a number of national honors, such as the most beautiful rural teacher, national model teacher and outstanding moral education worker awards, and most importantly, the opportunity to attend the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party as a rural teacher.

"I was moved when General Secretary Xi Jinping said at the congress that the Chinese Dream belongs to our generation. But it belongs more to the younger generation. If the young people are developed well, the nation will be developed well, if the children are upright and full of life, then the country"s future must be bright and prosperous."

Attending the Party congress has greatly inspired her thinking. Her class has become more attractive and colorful. She is encouraging her students to care more about ecological civilization.

Now with the roads having been rebuilt four years ago, Wang, who was called "the boatwoman" by villagers, no longer has to pick up the children by boat, but the picture of the old days is clearly engraved in her heart.


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