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Chinese Rural Substitute Teachers Earn Little & See No Future

Luo Qilin, 25 years old, has been a substitute teacher at the Xinhe Primary School in Sichuan province for 2 years. He attended his first year of university but later for unexpected reasons dropped out. After several years in the city to seek employment, he went back home to be a substitute teacher. He feels that he's still young and should accumulate experience for now. As for the future, he doesn't worry too much.

From BJNEWS:

Rural substitute teachers attract attention, having no social status and bleak prospects

They have no social status, they earn little, and they are called “substitute teachers”, referring to those who work in rural schools as temporary teachers without formal employment, and once called civilian/private teachers [not employed by the government/state]. While the Department of Education put an end to civilian teachers as early as 1985, it is still difficult for the government to employ professional teachers because living conditions are miserable in rural areas. Currently, substitute teachers still constitute a boost to education in the western regions of China, especially the remote mountainous areas.

September 4th, substitute teacher Pan Dejiang is lining up the kids to get new schoolbags. Behind him are the 3 classrooms and one teacher's office that he and Pan Delu personally went to the county government to apply for over 20 times before finally getting it built in 2008 after finding a kind Hong Kong donor who donated 50,000 yuan.

September 4th, substitute teacher Pan Dejiang is lining up the kids to get new schoolbags. Behind him are the 3 classrooms and one teacher’s office that he and Pan Delu personally went to the county government to apply for over 20 times before finally getting it built in 2008 after finding a kind Hong Kong donor who donated 50,000 yuan.

September 3rd, a first grade girl taking care of her younger brother after returning home from school. The children in this place begin helping around the home young, and the primary school in the village gives them a chance to receive an education.

September 3rd, a first grade girl taking care of her younger brother after returning home from school. The children in this place begin helping around the home young, and the primary school in the village gives them a chance to receive an education.

Guo Shougui, 40 years old, is a substitute teacher in Jinzhong Primary School in Qianxi County, Guizhou Province. He's been a substitute teacher for 22 years, waiting wistfully to be officially employed. His monthly salary is around 1000 yuan, less than a half of what an officially employed teacher earns.

Guo Shougui, 40 years old, is a substitute teacher in Jinzhong Primary School in Qianxi County, Guizhou Province. He’s been a substitute teacher for 22 years, waiting wistfully to be officially employed. His monthly salary is around 1000 yuan, less than a half of what an officially employed teacher earns.

Pan Delu, 33 years old, has been a substitute teacher in Yanjiao Primary School, Guizhou Province, for 7 years. He strikes an iron piece to start a class, because there's no electric ring in the school. In this impoverished village, Pan's family is one of the poorest. His 16-year-old daughter, who has gone to Zhejiang Province for work, is the economic backbone of the family.

Pan Delu, 33 years old, has been a substitute teacher in Yanjiao Primary School, Guizhou Province, for 7 years. He strikes an iron piece to start a class, because there’s no electric ring in the school. In this impoverished village, Pan’s family is one of the poorest. His 16-year-old daughter, who has gone to Zhejiang Province for work, is the economic backbone of the family.

Luo Qilin, 25 years old, has been a substitute teacher at the Xinhe Primary School in Sichuan province for 2 years. He attended his first year of university but later for unexpected reasons dropped out. After several years in the city to seek employment, he went back home to be a substitute teacher. He feels that he's still young and should accumulate experience for now. As for the future, he doesn't worry too much.

Luo Qilin, 25 years old, has been a substitute teacher at the Xinhe Primary School in Sichuan province for 2 years. He attended his first year of university but later for unexpected reasons dropped out. After several years in the city to seek employment, he went back home to be a substitute teacher. He feels that he’s still young and should accumulate experience for now. As for the future, he doesn’t worry too much.

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Sun Dayang, 29 years old, unmarried, is a substitute teacher in Yinlong Primary School in western Yunnan Province. Presently, his monthly salary merely amounts to 700 to 800 yuan. He says that he dares not dream about marriage, and if he should not be employed within three years, he'll seek other ways out.

Sun Dayang, 29 years old, unmarried, is a substitute teacher in Yinlong Primary School in western Yunnan Province. Presently, his monthly salary merely amounts to 700 to 800 yuan. He says that he dares not dream about marriage, and if he should not be employed within three years, he’ll seek other ways out.

In Yanjiao Primary School, Senshan Village, Guiding County, Guizhou Province, many children play around in the underdeveloped playground in the late afternoon. In this remote Miao (an ethnic minority group in China) village, both boys and girls can go to school; enrollment rate is 100%.

In Yanjiao Primary School, Senshan Village, Guiding County, Guizhou Province, many children play around in the underdeveloped playground in the late afternoon. In this remote Miao (an ethnic minority group in China) village, both boys and girls can go to school; enrollment rate is 100%.

Pan Dejiang's "Blood Donation Card". In the past, Pan Dejiang could "sell blood" every month using this card and get 300 yuan in income, with this being an important source of income. Now that the blood donation site has closed, this source of income is gone too.

Pan Dejiang’s “Blood Donation Card”. In the past, Pan Dejiang could “sell blood” every month using this card and get 300 yuan in income, with this being an important source of income. Now that the blood donation site has closed, this source of income is gone too.

The Principal’s selling blood draws public attention

Around the formerly obscure Yanjiao Primary school, access roads have been constructed, walls have been built, and donations have come within a month. These changes were led to by our newspaper’s report on August 8th about the closing of a blooding drawing site in Guizhou Province. It was reported that substitute teachers there had to “sell” blood to make a living, which drew widespread attention of the general public.

The Principal of Yanjiao Primary School Pan Dejiang and a teacher there Pan Delu are substitute teachers. Strictly speaking, the school in which they are teaching is just a education site organized by the village. In the school, there are more than 60 students from the first to the third grade. The two teachers’ monthly salaries are only 280 yuan, so they have to sell their blood to have additional income of 300 yuan. After the closing of the blood drawing site, they are struggling with making a living. Thanks to the contributions from kind donors, they can continue teaching in the school.

No social status, no future.

In Jinzhong Primary School, Qianxi County, Guizhou Province, Guo Shougui, a 40-year-old substitute teacher, has been teaching in the school for 22 years. For all these years, he missed numerous chances of being officially employed. He says he’s been a teacher for so many years and can’t do jobs other than this. All he wishes is to be officially employed one day.

Sun Dayang, 29 years old, is a substitute teacher in Yin Long Primary School, Yunnan Province. His father is also a teacher, so after graduation, his family used social connections to help him land the job, hoping someday he will be officially employed by the government. Young and ambitious, Sun chose to went to the city for work, but the unexpected death of his father and sister drew him back home where he had to both take care of his mother and be a substitute teacher again.

It is not uncommon to see such substitute teachers as Guo Shougui and Sun Dayang in the southwestern regions of China. The number ranges from tens to hundreds in every county. Some of the teachers are registered in the local Education Committee, while some are employed by the village alone. Relevant governmental departments know this, but generally don’t have them registered, so exact statistics are unable to be compiled.

Hard living conditions, impossible official employment

Several years ago, the government integrated numerous primary schools in villages of rural mountainous areas to larger schools in the town. Before long, local Education Committees began to reopen those schools in villages because students there had difficulty traveling long distance to the larger schools. However, there was a shortage of teachers and other staff members due in great part to hard living conditions, which left the schools no choice but to employ local residents with relatively high levels of education to be substitute teachers (In rural villages of the southwestern China, a high school education is considered to be highly educated). In schools in the major cities or towns, an officially employed teacher can enjoy benefits from institutional units owned by the state, so it’s competitive to be such a teacher; without good social connections, one can hardly be employed. After 2 or 3 years’ service, lots of such officially employed teachers were on “loan” to other departments (where they don’t have to teach anymore), so substitute teachers are always needed.

Written by Paul

Paul is an English teacher whose lupine exterior conceals the nature of a real human being. He lives in Chengdu

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