Part III: Reasons for Desperation
By Yifu Dong
In a village like Xiaojiao, desperation is almost tangible.
Desperation is a heavy word, for it signals a constant state of struggle and helplessness in the foreseeable future. Therefore, it is not just the current state of Xiaojiao that renders it desperate, but also an underlying force that will keep Xiaojiao the way it is for a long time to come.
The thing that shocked me the most during my time spent there was neither the condition of the dormitory nor the deficiency in academics; it was one simple line from the speech during the weekly flag ceremony which I attended along with the students. Although speeches at Chinese schools’ flag ceremonies always tend to be extremely clichéd, this line was unforgettable: “We should study hard for our final exams in order to repay the caring and tutelage of the Party.”
The Party. In city schools we would only go as far as repaying our parents and teachers or paying back society. Not the Party.
Although evidence of indoctrination abounds, this innocent line was enough to show how much politics had infiltrated the lives of the children. Few cared if they failed in academics or even dropped out of school, but through schooling they must become ardent supporters of a system that abandoned them at the wrong end of inequality.
Most people still believe that helping the children directly through building better infrastructure, providing better resources, and providing more opportunities is the only way to enable the poor to uplift themselves. These things are easily achievable, for China has enough wealth and administrative power to implement these positive changes in rural education. So what’s the real problem?
Although most people regard poverty and inequality as social ills that are bad for everyone, keeping the rural children poor is actually expedient for many regimes around the world. The perpetual suffering of the powerless is essential for the survival of the systems that benefit the few by exploiting of the many.
Everyone knows that education is the most effective means to empower the poor, and that’s exactly why rural education is being intentionally kept in a state of desperation.
Yifu Dong ’17 is in Branford College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.