Across China: Xinjiang teacher's love, care ripple through decades
URUMQI, July 1 (Xinhua) -- When Pan Yulian, 80, broke her hip bone and was hospitalized in May, about a dozen people, all claiming to be her "children," took turns looking after her in the ward.
Pan had worked voluntarily as an after-school teacher since 1992 in Shule County, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. She has a son, and the people claiming to be her children are her previous students from different ethnic minority groups.
Pan's work and her strong bond with her students created over the past 30 years have had far-reaching influences.
"I did everything I could for the kids, and they tried their best to pay me back," Pan said while lying in the hospital bed.
Pan's father was Han and her mother was Uygur. She had offered after-school child care to her neighbors since 1992, as she was one of the few locals who were proficient in both Mandarin and Uygur languages.
Back then, quite a few of her neighbors worked late and needed help taking care of their children. They were also unable to help them with homework due to limited education.
Seeing the situation, Pan decided to transform one room of her house into a "nursery center," where she offered guidance in Chinese, mathematics and other subjects. Her classroom accommodated dozens of kids.
"I just couldn't take watching those kids wandering around unattended," Pan said.
In addition to helping with school work, Pan also provided food and accommodation to children whose parents were not at home or came home late from work.
"One time, my parents didn't come home till late at night, and I fell asleep on her bed. She even got up at midnight to help cover me with the blanket," recalled Shemshinur Memet, who was Pan's student and one of her old neighbors.
She repeatedly refused fees offered by parents, as she considers these children family. At one point, she even offered financial support for a student.
When Rabigul Haji, one of her neighbors, was about to enter second grade nearly 30 years ago, her family was unable to pay the school fees. Pan used her own savings to support the child.
"Without Pan's help, I couldn't have gone to school, let alone have a stable job," said Rabigul Haji, who now works in a local community.
In early 2020, affected by the COVID-19 epidemic and her increasingly obvious signs of brain atrophy, Pan stopped teaching the class. By then, she had taught more than 2,000 students.
Pan's acts of kindness and benevolence are seen throughout the county. With the support of local authorities, the model of Pan's after-school class has been widely replicated and covered many communities and villages in Shule.
Rabigul Haji is in charge of one of the after-school classes. Instead of focusing on teaching from textbooks, the newly established class emphasizes cultivating students' interests and hobbies, offering dancing and painting lessons.
"Although Pan no longer teaches the classes, she likes to visit the children and check out how the teachers are doing," said Rabigul Haji.