No child left behind, door-to-door services brighten disabled lives

LANZHOU: Unlike many of his peers who ran into the school to greet the new semester with joy and laughter, Xiaozhou took his first class in bed, quietly but excited, with no blackboard, no desk, nor even a classmate.
“Ms. Yang, I want to learn English and drawing,” said the 15-year-old Xiaozhou, who lives in Dianping Village, Longxi County, northwest China’s Gansu Province. Though unable to move at will as a result of congenital cerebral palsy, the boy is still hungry for knowledge.
For severely disabled kids in remote rural areas like Xiaozhou who can neither attend regular classes nor go to special education schools, taking classes was just a dream in the past. “Helplessness” and “giving up” were once the most frequent words popping up the minds of their parents. “After all, he can’t even take care of himself, how could we have such a wild wish of education?” asked Yang Bin, Xiaozhou’s father.
The family embraced the beacon of hope in 2015 when the local government organized the first group of teachers to offer door-to-door teaching services to ensure equal educational opportunities for children with severe disabilities. So far, more than 300 teachers in Longxi County have provided free visiting services for over 170 special children.
“When I knocked on Xiaozhou’s door for the first time about six years ago and saw him lying helplessly in bed, I felt terrible,” said Yang Huijun, a 51-year-old math teacher at Dianping Primary School in Longxi County.
Yang recalled their first private class when the boy clenched his fist and refused her approach, let alone chatting with her. “Out of fear of strangers, Xiaozhou did not accept me in a short time.”
Five to six visits a month, with each lasting more than two hours, Yang never gave up. “I indeed failed once, but then I tried twice, three times and even four times.” Through constant efforts, the teacher found Xiaozhou’s interests in painting and doing handwork. “He is eager for school and loves the scenes of students learning in the classrooms. I kept encouraging him that ‘as long as you work hard, you can attend the class just like other kids.’”
Gradually, Xiaozhou would take the initiative by holding Yang’s hand and asking the teacher about the timetable through WeChat. “Now whenever I come to teach him, he will use all his strength to sit up and give me a big warm hug.”
In May 2016, Xiaozhou learned the numbers from 1 to 100. In April 2017, Xiaozhou wrote his name independently for the first time. In June 2018, Xiaozhou could color in specific places and draw cactus with imagination. In August 2019, Xiaozhou could play the piano on a tablet computer and learned 26 English letters. In March 2020, Xiaozhou learned the pinyin phonetic alphabet and could tell a story fluently.
Yang recorded every precious moment of Xiaozhou’s growth in the past six years. The boy spent a month this summer making an exquisite flower-shaped three-dimensional greeting card as a Teacher’s Day gift for Yang.
“Now I teach Xiaozhou whatever he wants to learn. I’m trying my best to make him learn happily,” Yang said.
To realize Xiaozhou’s dream of going to school, Yang pushed him in a wheelchair into her class after the fall semester kicked off. “Ms. Yang, I really want to finish this class, but I feel so tired,” said Xiaozhou.
“It’s Okay. You can come to my class whenever you want,” Yang said. – Agencies