Liu Manting, a teacher in Anhui Province, has worked since 2012 to improve rural education and inject fresh vitality into local schools.
For her, the state of rural schools are not places that she just simply leave behind and she must show that rural students can have bright and impactful futures.
Liu now works as the headmaster of Furong Primary School and Xiwei Primary School, which are 15km apart in Huoqiu County of Anhui. She frequently commutes between the two schools to attend to her teaching duties and manage the schools to the best of her abilities.
The First Woman Teacher at Furong Primary School
In 2012, Liu returned to work in her hometown as a rural teacher at the Furong Primary School. The school had no walls, no playground, and didn’t even have a functioning gate. Of the many derelict classrooms at the school, only three classrooms were undergoing needed repairs.
“If I hadn’t already been told, I would not recognize the building as a school,” Liu said.
What’s worse, there were only 28 students left in the 53-year-old school, with only five teachers still working there, along the Headmaster Qi Youjiang.
Qi had told Liu that she was the first woman teacher at the school, and that all the other teachers were going to retire soon, highlighting the school’s dire state.
Despite the challenges, Liu decided to continue working at the school after completing her first 3-year tenure in 2015. The following year, she became the headmaster of Furong Primary School.
The earnest teacher works to solve problems with rural schools
The first major step Liu undertook as headmaster was to pay home visits to her students and learn about the each of their domestic situations. Through this personal outreach, she found that the parents were broadly worried about the school’s facilities and the lack of available teaching staff.
Through the insight she gained by speaking with her students’ parents, she set out to renovate the school and its outdated facilities. Through her personal efforts, Furong Primary School is now equipped with a new playground, a new canteen and new bathrooms. However, the rural school still needed to alleviate the lack of teaching staff to improve further.
“At the start of each semester, I’m always afraid to receive calls from teachers because most of the time they are calling me to resign,” Liu said. One of the teachers left after working for only one semester, she added.
Liu to accommodate her school’s teachers by working to improve their classroom’s equipment, buying them daily necessities, and even preparing them gifts on their birthdays.
“I just want them know that they are noticed for what they do and are valued at the school. I’d be content if each could just stay for one year.” Liu smiled and added, “even one more semester would be good.”
Meanwhile, Liu has worked to expand channels for teachers to access information, resources, and support from other schools so that they have the resources they have and keep improving their teaching abilities.
In 2020, Furong Primary School adopted iFLYTEK’s smart classroom facilities. “In the past, our rural area was isolated with very limited access to information,” Liu said and added that, “now the smart classrooms have provided our teachers with high-quality teaching capabilities.”
Through the utilization of smart classrooms, teachers at the Furong Primary school have won county-level and city-level acclaim. Boasting on amazing progress the school made, Liu said, “See? Our teachers are just as good as those in urban schools.”
Through the increased capabilities provided by smart technology, Furong Primary school has seen a reversal in fortunes. Nine new teachers have begun working at Furong Primary School and the number of students has increased from 50 in 2016 to over 200 now. It’s worth mentioning that the school is even attracting students from outside of Anhui, with more than 10 students from the neighboring Henan Province choosing to study there.
By working to improve the school’s facilities and teaching staff, Liu aims at high-quality development of Furong Primary School.
She found that most of her students’ parents are not well-educated and generally work away from home, leaving their children behind to their illiterate grandparents during the day. “The lack of parental presence in students’ everyday lives has made learning for them more difficult. We as primary school teachers must help our student learn even against these challenges and provide with opportunities for growth,” Liu said.
At the same time, Liu has worked to educate her students about the outside world by utilizing the smart classroom facilities. For example, when teaching about the Qiantang River tidal bore in Zhejiang Province, she showed them videos and pictures of the iconic landscape, bringing them closer to the outside world in the absence of being to visit the area themselves.
In working to improve the facilities of her school and provide opportunities for her students, Liu has declined multiple job offers made by urban schools.
For her, she understands she is where she needs to be. The accomplishments she has made through the utilization of smart classroom facilities and in reversing the exodus of students from her rural school could have easily allowed her to go on to work somewhere with better pay and more opportunities. However, she has dedicated herself to making a difference where she is and to bettering the lives and opportunities of the students she has looked over. As Furong Primary School continues to improve its capabilities through smart classrooms facilities, Liu knows that her school still has room to grow and that her place is ensuring that her students are not left behind.