Overcoming Challenges, Exceeding Expectations
The students of WanJia Elementary are incredible in both the challenges they encounter on a daily basis at face value and their accomplishments in light of these challenges. The students walk several miles in whatever weather faces them in the heights of the mountains to and from school everyday without any break. Their parents often have gone to large cities to find work and the children have to live with their grandparents. The rural lifestyle requires many hours of farmwork and chores every day, such as feeding animals, harvesting crops, and tending to fields. Many students have grandparents that are unable to do the physical labor required of the rural lifestyle and as a result the students must do these chores on a daily basis in addition to their schoolwork. At school, the students work together whenever and wherever they are needed to in the daily ongoings of the school day. Each student has his or her own responsibilty and executes his or her task quickly and efficiently, forming one cog in a well oiled machine of the student body.
A School Day
For most of the students, the day begins before the sun rises over the mountains as early as 5 A.M. Students get to work with their chores at home and the farmwork that needs to be done before the day can begin. After finishing their chores, students walk on narrow dirth paths on the sides of mountains on their way to school. During rainy days these paths are treacherous to walk in and often become ankle deep mud. After arriving at school first, older students bring water in buckets to troughs near the entrance to the school. The water is then used by arriving students to wash their shoes in order to prevent tracking any mud into the school. After a majority of the students arrive, the water is used by the older students to clean the courtyard. Students have for periods of class during the day, with a lunch period in the middle in the classrooms. All students contribute some way to the lunch process, whether it be the older students bringing the food out of the kitchen, or the younger students arranging tables, chairs, and bringing utensils out. The students eat together, and there is always a few older students at each table to ensure that cleanup goes smoothly.
After lunch, the students all take part in cleaning up the lunchroom with what they have. Younger students take utensils and bowls to the kitchen where older students wash them. Meanwhile, older students sweep and wash the classrooms, rearragne the benches and desks, and prepare the room for class. Once the classroom is ready for class, the students go outside for exercise and to take a recess.