[Student’s Sharing] Senior Secondary School Students Mainland Exchange Programme Subvention Scheme
Name of the Programme: Senior Secondary School Students Mainland Exchange Programme Subvention Scheme
Visiting Location: Heyuan, Guangdong Province
Resources: Students' Sharing
School: La Salle College
Heyuan Service Visit - Self-Reflection
It was five or six years since my last service visit to the mainland. During the preparation stage, departure, even when we were on the boat, I still had little idea what the trip would be like. On the bus I already noticed that Heyuan city is quite different from Hong Kong. The landscape is covered by farmland and construction sites, with only a few industrialised buildings. Apparently it will morph into another big city in ten years’ time.
It turned out that Xichang was really an unbelievably tiny village, isolated from the rest of Heyuan by the Xinfengjiang water reservoir. It requires a two-hour boat trip (alternatively a three-hour drive) to and from Heyuan. The village was so small that once we got onshore, we almost immediately stood next to the playground of the school. The town centre was merely a minute’s walk from the shore!
Having observed the conditions of the place while settling down, attending the welcoming dinner and visiting the school – to be honest, the situation there was way better than my expectation. I was actually quite impressed by the facilities available in the village, especially in the school, which was modern, hygienic, had electrical lighting and air conditioning. It was only later that I knew the construction of the school was funded by the city government. Our hostel was reasonably comfy as well. Though we did not have heating in the room and sufficient lighting as in the other hotel, at least there was hot water. It took a while, for solar water heater was used, just like the majority of houses in Xichang and all of Heyuan. I wonder how a still urbanizing city gives so much thought to renewable energy sources and sustainability, while Hong Kong, a well-developed metropolis, lags behind in this aspect.
There are several local stores in a street next to the hostels. Being isolated from the outside world, villagers only travel in and out for important festivals or events, so the two daily items stores provide all the basic necessities for the local villagers. The commodity prices are extremely low, as the local people do not have a high purchasing power anyway. They do not have any money to spend on movies, a luxurious feast or even a soft drink. Chatting with the locals, we understood that the locals do not have much entertainment, nothing more than playing ball games and watching the television.
The main component of the visit is of course the activity sessions with the school children, together with the lesson visits. We tried to teach through games and activities, an interactive way of learning that is utterly different from what they are used to. Their usual lessons are just listening to the teacher or copying from the blackboard. Helping them with their work, we discovered a problem that was common in all of them. The subject content of the textbooks is difficult, comparable to those used in urban schools, which is good for them. Unfortunately, the students do not really understand the content and they just memorise the text. The core of the problem is, the students are taught by locals who are educated by locals at the same village before them. The teachers do not get the training of resources, which makes the education a vicious cycle. I am glad that now with the new campus students can enjoy a pleasant learning environment. Still, most are boarding students, left-behind children who lack parental care and have no idea about their future prospects. Their situation is worrying.
All in all, although Xichang is not typically poor or special in any other way, I found it a meaningful experience to witness the life of an ordinary village child in China. (And of course it was fun visiting the factory of Nongfu Spring and the great dam on the last day!). I look forward to any future opportunities to service and volunteer programmes!
Form 5 Student