Across China: Rural schools encourage "left-behind" children with weekend club activities

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A student makes model airplanes with the help of his teacher at Furong school in Sangzhi County, central China's Hunan Province, Nov. 11, 2022. (Xinhua/Zhang Ge)

by Xinhua writers Zhang Ge and Shuai Cai

CHANGSHA, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- On weekends, the normally quiet campus comes alive with laughter. At Furong School, in a remote mountainous county called Sangzhi in central China's Hunan Province, children participate in fun educational activities like flying drones, playing soccer and choral singing under the care of their teachers.

"This is a service that is being promoted in Sangzhi for left-behind children," said Peng Guofeng, director of the local education bureau. "Because more than 70 percent of students in the county are left behind, and some students are unaccompanied on weekends, the county's elementary and middle schools organized clubs to provide students with opportunities to learn and relax during weekends."

There are clubs for painting, programming, hosting, table tennis, athletics and others. "Now, students in the mountains, like children in cities, can select clubs based on their interests," said Yang Xuejun, principal of Cuiying School in Sangzhi.

One student, Haohao, from Cuiying School was once addicted to video games. "Every time I returned home, my son was playing games on his phone. Haohao's grandparents and I never knew how to get him to stop," said the boy's father, Ding Zongyou, who works away from home.

Recently, at the urging of his teachers and parents, Haohao joined the school's basketball club. "At first, I was kind of hesitant. Because if I took basketball classes on weekends, I wouldn't have much time to play games," he said.

After a few basketball classes, Haohao gradually developed a liking for the sport. "On the basketball court, players sweat with their teammates and battle to win the game. This experience is so different from video games!"

"My son is now more confident and happy. He seems to be in a better mood," Ding shared. He went on to say that this change makes it easier for him to keep his mind on work, which lightens his burden when he is far from home.

"Students used to go back home on the weekends and became addicted to electronic products," said Chen Jiangfu, principal of Furong School in Sangzhi, "Now, the weekend club activities can help children balance cultural learning and interest development."

"I joined the model airplane club. I want to become a pilot," said Sun Rong, an eighth-grader of the school, adding that thanks to the hobby-based clubs, he felt closer to achieving his dream when his homemade model airplane flew through the sky.

Huang Ying, a seventh-grader, still remembers that when he first entered the school, he was dazzled for a time when facing more than 20 school clubs. After some consideration, he finally joined the table tennis club. "Because I saw table tennis matches on TV before, I felt that swinging rackets was very cool. Now I am a good table tennis player. I feel very happy when I show my talent."

"Carrying out colorful club activities can alleviate the contradiction between working and accompanying children for families with left-behind children. It can also reduce education expenditure and relieve parents' anxiety. More importantly, it can provide a platform for left-behind children to grow up healthily," said Peng.

Many students have made new friends in clubs, and some introverted children have become more cheerful and outgoing, Peng added. ■

Students make handicrafts at Cuiying school in Sangzhi County, central China's Hunan Province, Nov. 12, 2022. (Xinhua/Zhang Ge)

Students play table tennis at Furong school in Sangzhi County, central China's Hunan Province, Nov. 11, 2022. (Xinhua/Zhang Ge)

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