Visiting teacher Wu Minglan asks students at a local primary school in Liupanshui, Guizhou Province for a show of hands during class. [Photo provided to China Daily]
The long summer and winter vacations during which teachers can recharge their batteries and prepare for a new semester is certainly a perk. But Wu Minglan, a primary school teacher in Liupanshui City, Guizhou Province, has certainly not seen it that way for the past seven years.
Wu, a Chinese teacher at Liupanshui Experimental Primary School, has been devoting her spare time to finding out the pressing social needs of people by conducting door-to-door surveys and drafting proposals for the National People's Congress since she was selected as an NPC deputy in 2013.
"I try to strike a balance between instructing the students and following up on people's urgent demands," says Wu, 49, who was re-elected last year.
She just proposed at the two sessions that the government expand maternity leave for female workers and come up with more favorable policies for families with two or more children. She came up with the idea after some of her colleagues at school talked about the challenges and hardships they faced after giving birth to their second child.
Her proposal was the result of a survey of over 60 families with a second child, and focused on how the new arrival influenced the parents' lives.
"I mainly interviewed the parents of my students as they are from various walks of life, and I found that they usually became upset when facing a doubled economic load and more pressure at work," says Wu, adding that she feels a great need to call on the government to help these families go through this period of disequilibrium.
As a primary school teacher, she always concerns herself with the development of compulsory education and the well-being of students in Southwest China's rural areas.
In 2013, when she volunteered to train teachers at a primary school in Liupanshui's Luome village, she was surprised to see that these rural teachers always rushed to the canteen after class without marking papers or giving individual attention to students.
And after investigating the matter she was shocked to discover that these teachers also doubled up as school cooks and often searched for pig breeders in nearby villages at night to purchase fresh, reasonably priced pork for the children.
"They told me that the food subsidies that the school got at that time were insufficient to hire someone to work exclusively in the canteen and at the same time provide students with good meals," recalls Wu.
She says although the country started its "nutritional lunch project" by providing an allowance of 3 yuan ($0.45) a day per student to ensure quality food for students in compulsory education early in 2011, the funding was not enough for schools in remote places.
"So, because of a tight budget, some teachers were asked to cook in the school canteen in order to cut costs," says Wu, who later made a proposal at the two sessions in March 2014, suggesting that the government increase the free lunch project subsidies.
Now, most primary schools and junior high schools in Guizhou are able to afford a nutritious lunch that includes three dishes and a soup every day, according to Zou Lianke, director of the provincial education department.
Besides her raising the issues of people in need at the two sessions, Wu also keeps a close watch on how the problems are resolved after the annual event.
In 2015, she was the first to propose that heating systems should be installed in classrooms at high altitude in western China.
"In winter, students usually suffer from chilblains and terrible coughs due to the freezing and damp weather in western China," says Wu. "So, it's really imperative to address the problem."
The government of Shuicheng county in Liupanshui city was then inspired to take action the following year.
And at the start of last year, a central heating system was set up to cover 12 schools and kindergartens in the county's downtown area, benefiting over 22,300 students.
Also, to enable more students benefit from the heating project, Wu is now trying to persuade local officials to do a survey and expand the coverage of the project.
"If there's one less child suffering from the cold, I will feel a bit better," she says. "Making positive changes for the people and society is a source of happiness for me."
[Photo provided to China Daily]
(Source: China Daily)