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One-on-one lessons are the only choice for old Ma and little Ma

China Daily | Updated: 2019-11-26 09:16

Ma Fengcai waits for his father at home. [Photo/Xinhua]

YINCHUAN-Before the winter dawn arrived, 8-year-old Ma Fengcai had already set out on a winding road to school with a bag on his back.

His teacher, Ma Yanguo, 62, was waiting for the boy and lit the stove to warm the classroom. Ma's wife was boiling eggs.

The couple was waiting for the only student of the school in Mataozi village, Wuzhong city, in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region.

Every Monday morning, after eating an egg, little Ma joins old Ma in a flag-raising ceremony. Having no audio equipment, old Ma sings the national anthem in the distinctive tone of his dialect while he raises the national flag. Little Ma stands still and salutes earnestly throughout the whole process.

"The ceremony must be held, like in other schools, even if there is only one student," old Ma said.

The school was founded about half a century ago, accommodating more than 180 teachers and students in its heyday. However, the students left when their parents moved to cities to find work, and school enrollments dropped until only little Ma remained.

His parents are confined in their mountain home due to poor health. The family survives off a piece of land, some cattle and sheep, and government subsidies.

Unlike his sister who is old enough to attend a boarding school in a nearby town, little Ma had to stay behind.

But old Ma has also chosen to stay, even though he should have retired two years ago.

"Kids like him have only knowledge to depend on to change their fate. A well-educated child can lift the whole family out of poverty," he said.

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