|NPC deputy Li Ling plays with her students at Li Ling Hope Primary School in Zhoukou, Henan province. [China Daily]|
As the principal of Li Ling Hope Primary School in Dongxin district in Zhoukou, Li suggested that the government should invest more in rural areas to strengthen local education and attract talented people.
Many people leave their villages to earn a living in cities, leaving old people and children behind, Li said. She said rural education is the foundation for revitalizing rural areas, and rejuvenation of rural areas should start with rural education. "My father is a teacher and I admired him for imparting knowledge to his students. So I made a wish to become a teacher like him when I was little," Li said.
When she was studying to be a teacher, Li realized that many children in her village dropped out of school for a number of reasons－some because they lived a long way from the school and some simply because they had been left behind by their parents and there was no one to encourage them to attend.
In 2002, after graduating from college, the 20-year-old decided to build a primary school for left-behind children, aiming to reduce the number of school dropouts.
The endeavor required her to start from scratch as she had no funds to run the school.
Her parents were supportive from the outset. "Of course I supported her when she made the decision," said her father, Li Bingxing, who has been a middle school teacher for about 40 years.
Although her title is principal, Li worked as a laborer when the school was being built, getting up and starting work before the sun rose with her father, mother and brother.
When the new school was completed, Li was faced with a debt of more than 80,000 yuan ($12,700), but as the number of children attending the school has increased, stronger government support and private donations have helped to keep it running.
"In the first few years, students got very dirty during breaks because the playground was not reinforced with concrete. Their clothes were covered in dirt," said Fan Zhaoying, a teacher at the school. "Now the kids are cleaner as the facilities have been improved."
To enrich students' extracurricular activities, Li decided to build a small library. Once again, a lack of funds meant she had to put in extra effort. In the summer of 2009, she went to the provincial capital of Zhengzhou and used a tricycle to purchase secondhand books, which was all she could afford, gaining her popularity online.
More government support and social donations came to her aid. And now students can enjoy reading in their spare time in the library.
"I am grateful to everyone for their contributions and plan to speak louder for kids in rural areas now that I am a deputy," Li added.
(Source: China Daily)