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'Mother Wu' remains loyal to her island home

By ZOU SHUO | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-09-04

Sansha Yongxing School is located in Sansha city, Yongxing Island, which is administered by Hainan, China's southernmost province.

Teacher Wu Quansui has worked in the school's kindergarten for six years. Many of her pupils call her "Mother Wu", and her closeness with the students is the main reason the 29-year-old has stayed on the island long after many of her peers have left.

The clean sand and breathtakingly beautiful clear water surrounding the island can be deceptive because those benefits are accompanied by a scorching sun, heat, humidity and lack of fresh water, vegetables and fruit, Wu said.

She is a graduate of Qiongtai Normal University in Haikou, Hainan, and her teachers there helped found the Sansha Yongxing School, which opened in 2015.

"Back then, I knew that our university would select graduates to work at the school, so when the enrollment notice was published I signed up immediately," she said.

The conditions were not good when she first arrived on the island, and a boat carried daily necessities to the isolated community once a week. As there was little meat, the teachers mainly ate cabbages and carrots, and they also lacked fresh water, she said, adding that they had to use seawater in the shower.

"I have never regretted my decision, because I know that the teachers who came to the school at the beginning had even worse conditions. Moreover, I have formed very close relationships with my students and their families," Wu said.

The school has 32 kindergarten pupils and eight primary school students, ranging from the first to the third grade.

Unlike in other schools, the teachers at the Yongxing school spend most of the day with their students.

"We don't have much to do as there is not much entertainment on this small island, so after the students have eaten dinner, they come back to the school and play with us. Sometimes, they spend more time with us than with their parents," Wu said.

"When there was no school on the island, the children had to go far away to study, so they could only meet their parents a few times a year. Our school offered them the opportunity to be together as families, and that's what really motivates me."

When typhoons happen, some parents and students seek shelter at the school because it is more robustly built than their houses.

"So, it is not just a school, and our relationship is not just a simple teacher-student exchange," Wu said.

"In a way, education is a two-way street. When you touch the students with care and love, they will also move you."

Twin boys in her class like to follow Wu, no matter where she goes. When she eats, they carry stools so they can sit and talk with her. They also send her fruit. If they don't see her at the school, they ask their parents to call and see where she is.

The parents also treat her very well. Once, when she got chickenpox, the parents immediately contacted their relatives to send a box of medicinal herbs via the boat.

Conditions on the island are also improving. Now, there are two boats every week and a grocery store has opened. The school has also been expanded from a two-story building into a four-story one.

In her six years, Wu has taught 138 kindergarten pupils. Her contract with the school expires next year, but she plans to renew it and stay to see more children grow up on the island happily, she said.


Students at the Sansha Yongxing School in Hainan province celebrate graduation day in the company of their teachers. CHINA DAILY