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Thousands Mourn Death of Chinese High School Principal

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From NetEase:

School Principal Raised Funds to Help Over 10,000 Students, Funeral Wreaths Sold Out Throughout the Entire County After His Death

March 15, early morning, Guangxi province Du’an Yao autonomous county seat.

Thousands appeared, wiping away tears, to say farewell to the deceased Du’an Yao autonomous county high school principal Mo Zhengao.

Over his 30 year career in education, Mo Zhengo collected donations and contributions from wherever he could, to help over ten thousand impoverished students from mountain regions continue their studies, hailed by these impoverished children as “Principal Dad”.

On March 9th, 59-year-old Mo Zhengao passed away from illness. All the funeral wreaths in the entire county were bought out, with alumni rushing back from Beijing, Shanghai, and such places, and top schools such as Tsinghua University’s Recruitment Office sending their condolences.

Why did the passing of an ordinary school principal cause such a big commotion? Teachers say Mo Zhengao’s life was a life of helping children study, allowing them to escape the impoverished mountainous areas of Yao.

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School principal’s passing

Funeral wreaths throughout the county sold out

Tsinghua University Recruitment Office sends condolences

Guangxi province Du’an Yao autonomous county is a major target of the country’s poverty alleviation and economic development work. Here, “the natural environment is very poor, it is impoverished in the mountains, and the children study extremely hard. Despite it just being county high school, Du’an High School is quite well-known throughout all of Guangxi: for 20 years back-to-back, there have been students who have tested into top schools like Tsinghua University and Peking University, with nearly 1/3 of the students achieving scores qualifying them for first-tier/rate undergraduate universities.

Mo Zhengao worked at Du’an High School for 37 years, and on March 9th, he suddenly passed away from illness. This sad news quickly spread through the county, with grief permeating the public.

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According to the school’s entrance guard Wei Rong, a former student hurried back and upon reaching the school’s entrance, began crying loudly.

19-year-old Wei Yuhua is a second-year high school student. She said in tears that when she learned of the principal’s death while in class, the teacher and students together began crying, knowing that the person who was the first at school every day and on windy and rainy days use the school’s public announcement broadcast system to remind students to dress warmly would forever be gone. On the evening of March 9th, students organized all 4600 students of the school in turning off the lights to observe a three minute moment of silence for Mo Zhengao.

People who knew and didn’t know Mo Zhengao all came to offer their condolences. The owner of a flower wreath shop in the county said he doesn’t know Mo Zhengao but people ordering flower wreaths packed the little shop, with many people even being forced to go to nearby Mashan county, Hechi city, and Nanning city to buy flower wreaths.

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The number of people who rushed back to Du’an from places such as Beijing, Shanghai, as well as various places in Guangxi were not just a few. Among the 129 students that graduated from Du’an High School in 1991, over 70 students rushed back from various places, with some men breaking down in tears. Tsinghua University’s Recruitment Office, East China Normal University’s Higher Education Research Institute and many other universities and higher education organizations went out of their way to send their condolences. Several alumni who graduated from Du’an High School and are now abroad were likewise filled with emotion, with multiple professors from Harvard University and Ohio State University in the United States sending letters of condolences.

Within two days of Mo Zhengao’s passing, the number of views for the “Du’an High School Mo Zhengao” topic/hashtag on Sina Weibo reached 260k, with this news also dominating many people’s WeChat friends circles.

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“Principal Dad”:

So the sons and daughters of Yao Mountain can escape the mountain [poverty]

Du’an High School Financial Aid Office director Wei Xifeng says 40% of Du’an High School’s students to this day remain impoverished students [“underprivileged” students] and that many years ago, there were even more. “Even if the school already waives tuition, textbook expenses, dormitory expenses, as well as monthly living expenses still add up to approximately 4000 yuan every year, and many impoverished families are unable to bear such a heavy financial burden,” said Wei Xifeng.

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Children dropping out of school due to poverty endlessly pained Mo Zhengao. “Every time a student drops out of school to return home, the principal would personally or have the head teacher go to the student’s home, and bring them back,” Wei Xifeng says. One thing the principal often said was, “No matter what, first come back to school, and I’ll figure out a way.”

60-year-old Lan Yufeng wipes away tears in the funeral hall. In 1998, his son Lan Cheng tested into Du’an High School, but because their family only has three mu of land to generate income, Lan Cheng was on the brink of dropping out for a time. Just as Lan Yufeng was at his wits end unable to find a solution, it was Mo Zhengao who brought Lan Cheng back to the classroom, and from that point on his family never had to pay a single cent ever again. Lan Yufeng says his son has already graduated with a Ph.D, left the mountain, and is now in Beijing. According to Yao Mountain custom, elders cannot attend the funeral of those younger than them, but he doesn’t care, as he wants to come send off the principal.

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So children could return to campus, Mo Zhengao appealed for help from charities, companies, and compassionate individuals in society. At all sorts of occasions, Mo Zhengao would say: “My student has tested into university, but doesn’t have the money to go, so can you help?” As a result, he has been called the “Begging Principal”, while the children call him “Principal Dad”. One story that many people have brought up: Mo Zhengao went to the city for a meeting, and when a former student wanted to treat him to a meal, he was refused, but when the student repeatedly insisted, Mo Zhengao suggested that the cost of the meal be used to help impoverished students instead.

According to statistics, in 2014, approximately 200 students at this school receive 200 to over 400 yuan in financial assistance every month. Over the past few years, Mo Zhengao successively raised over 30 million yuan in donations, subsidizing over 18k impoverished students in fulfilling their dreams of going to college.

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Mo Zhengao “had to oversee” every aspect of the school: when the sun rose in winter, Mo Zhengao would repeatedly urge everyone to air out the dormitory’s blankets in the sun; when students encountered rain while exercising, Mo Zhengao’s voice would sound through the public announcement broadcast system: “Sweetened ginger soup has been prepared in the cafeteria. Students who have been in the rain, please go drink it.”

On the eve of Lantern Festival, while lying on his sick bed, Mo Zhengao went out of his way to call the school, requesting that the cafeteria cook glutinous rice balls [which is eaten for Lantern Festival] and provide them for free to all the third-year [senior] high school students. “The principal said this was very important, that every student had to get at least 10 glutinous rice balls each,” said Wei Xifeng. Five days later, Mo Zhengao forever departed the students he so cared for.

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Comments from NetEase:

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塞可邦勒 [网易北京市网友]:

I genuinely hope there can be more reports of principals like this, ideally while they are still alive.
When it comes to school principals who visit brothels and prey on young girls and the such, the media is all over it, but down-to-earth school principals like this who dedicate their lives to their students are instead ignored, and if it weren’t for his death moving an entire city, we would never know of his character and contributions… For those good people in all walks of life who devote themselves selflessly, this is too unfair.

回笼一觉百美生 [网易湖北省武汉市网友]:

You can move/touch an entire city, but you can’t move/touch CCTV.

网易广东省深圳市网友 [诱惑镗部根鸡]:

Provided financial assistance to several tens of thousands, but only several thousand people with no relation to him at all came. What a joke/embarrassment!

塞可邦勒 [网易北京市网友]: (responding to above)

Get lost!

统一100 [脑洞全开]: (also responding to 诱惑镗部根鸡)

Troll, do you know how many among these thousands were students, and how many were the parents of students? Your mother giving birth to you is a joke/embarrassment!

送杯三鹿给党喝 [网易广东省广州市手机网友]:

I’m a local, and we all love this school principal, calling him “Old Mo”! Rest in peace, Old Mo!

网易四川省乐山市网友 ip:218.6.*.*

Now this is an educator!

统一100 [脑洞全开]:

There are also good school principals.

局域网手机客户端 [网易北京市网友]:

Reading this report, I truly was saddened. Good people die young, while bad people plague for years. May this school principal rest in peace.

丐帮副帮主马大元 [脑洞全开]:

School principal, rest in peace.

牛求异 [网易浙江省温州市网友]:

A good person dies and funeral wreaths are sold out, this is the people’s popular sentiment! When will firecrackers be sold out?

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Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.

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