Visiting two schools in Yunnan, China

Today I am going with staff from IKEA Hong Kong and Taiwan to visit the Da Dong School, where Save the Children has not yet implemented our program work. The main reason why we decided to arrange such a school visit for the IKEA visitors is that we want to show them the difference between the schools that have funding and support from the IKEA Foundation and those that don’t have any support. In that way, they can understand and appreciate more of their importance to the children’s education.

Due to the road condition, we were dropped off by the coach seemingly in the middle of nowhere and we had to walk for about 30 to 40 minutes to get to the school. On top of that, the road was muddy and slippery because of the rain.

A dirt road

Arriving at the school, we could see the children staring at us; they were all very curious and shy at the same time.

A boy in his classroom

The first thing I noticed when I stepped into the classroom is that there are bunk beds at the back of the classroom! Another memorable thing is the washroom. It can hardly be described as a washroom since there are only a few holes in the floor.

Bunkbeds in a classroomA classroom in DaDong school

After we observed the morning class, it’s lunch time and we saw all the children all running outside to line up for lunch. Each child held a bowl in their hands and ate under the rain. It was sad to see that the children don’t even have a proper place to have a meal. At the same time I really admired the children’s optimism and self discipline; they washed their own utensils after the meal. After lunch, IKEA arranged games with children. I felt that the children were really happy and enjoyed the games.

Children line up with their lunch bowls

Next stop was a home visit – which was another challenge for us. Not only because the distance is far, but also because the road condition is also terrible, but it was worth it. It is hard for us who live in a city to imagine life without clean water and electricity, not to mention the lack of a proper washroom.

Inside a local houseInside a local house

Due to limited resources and funding, Save the Children can’t operate at all schools in Long Bin County. We can only select as many schools as possible to implement the education program and hope that these schools can also function as model schools and that the projects can be adopted by the local education bureau and implemented in all the schools at the county, city and provincial levels. I do hope that the children at the Da Dong School will also gain access to a quality education soon.

The difference Save the Children makes

Later we visited LongBin School, which has received Save the Children program support. I am glad to see our program work could reach out to this group of children.

A smiling girl in her classroom

LongBin classroom

When we observed the class, we could see that the teacher used positive encouragement and interactive teaching methods to teach the children. All of the children were attentive and eager to learn. When we showed them photos of themselves, they had the biggest smiles on their faces and I really felt them in my heart.

One of most impressive things I experienced today was how welcoming and appreciative the local Hani community was. Even though they don’t own much and they had to work very hard for their harvest, they insisted on giving us loads of gifts, i.e. tea leaves and eggs, when we went to visit one of their homes. I could deeply feel that they enjoyed our visit and were grateful for our education program work.

Corn hangs from a ceiling

“He never sleeps in on school days,” the parent of a boy in year four of primary school said. I was very touched by the child’s eagerness to go to school to learn even though he needs to walk long hours to the school. He always wants to go to school. Meanwhile, we who live in the city have so much already without realizing it, we often take things for granted.

A boy who loves school

It is wonderful to see children enjoy going to school so much and, due to IKEA Foundation support, children can have better school equipment and more qualified teachers. I felt that not only Save the Children and IKEA are supporting them. The children’s smiles, the parents’ appreciation and children’s keenness to learn has in turn taught all of us to cherish what’s important in life.

    Kim Lee