Dahe News Reports: May 4th is national Youth Day, with all children over the age of 14 getting a half day off from school, but one 15 year old student in the third year class at Wuzhi Middle School in Henan jumped from the stairs of academic building last Saturday, and is now in critical condition.
Wang Yishan jumped because on that day, the lead teacher of his class recounted his entire “bad record” to his mother– he was a poor student, and was often late to class. The lead teacher made him write a “letter of guarantee” stating that he would not commit any more offenses. His mother was so angry that she kicked him. Additionally, the school had previously asked him to withdraw. This all caused him to feel he “couldn’t go on living,” and he jumped from the 4th floor of the academic building. The national government has ordered over and over that middle school students cannot attend classes on weekends, and that schools cannot treat students unfairly, but on this Youth Day holiday, tragedy occurred once again…
On one side are advocates of holistic middle school education, on the other side are the pressures of high school and gaokao entrance exam test-focused education. Over here are schools looking to improve their graduation rates and parents who want to raise successful children, over there is the education department with all sorts of rules agains supplementary class sessions… where are China’s children and education to go?
A heartbreaking jump on Youth Day
Yesterday morning, reporters from Dadu News visited the Wuzhi County Hospital. In his room, Wang Yishan was still unconscious, a respiratory tube stuck up his nose, receiving IV fluids through his left arm. A tank of oxygen was to the left side of his bed, and a stand with a heart monitor to the right.
In front of the bed was Wang Yishan’s mother Li Xiju, who would not let go of his left hand. Wiping away the tears, Mrs. Li retold the story. Her home is in Wuzhi County’s Beiguo town, in the Xicaoting village, and her son Wang Yishan is 15 years old, a third-year student at the Wuzhi Middle School. The school is privately operated, and the son had attended the school since the first year of middle school with a yearly tuition of RMB 4000. The son did not get good grades and did not perform well in school, and the lead teacher of his class often called her to tell her about his poor performance, hoping that the mother would discipline her son better.
On May 3rd, the lead teacher, surname Wang, called the mother in front of the son to tell her that he had once again misbehaved, and asked her to come to the school to meet with the son and the teacher. On May 4 at 9 in the morning, she went to Teacher Gao’s office at the Wuzhi Middle School #4 building. Teacher Gao told her her son did not study, was often late to class, cut class, and negatively influenced other students studies, then asked her to take her son home.
The mother responded, “What am I going to do if I take him home? I’m a peasant woman, I can’t teach the child myself.” She asked Teacher Gao if she could leave her son at the school, and the teacher agreed. However, Teacher Gao required her son to write a letter of guarantee, stating that he would not commit any more offenses. Teacher Gao went to teach when the conversation was over, leaving the mother and son in the office. The student’s father had been working elsewhere transporting goods for many years, and the mother was left alone taking care of the home. She was unbearably busy already, and had already often heard the teachers yelling about issues with her son at school. She was so mad that she kicked her son. When the son was done writing the letter of guarantee, she told him to go to the 5th floor to deliver the letter to Teacher Gao.
Who could have known that more than 20 minutes later, a student would run up to her and say, “Are you Wang Yishan’s mother? Wang Yishan jumped from the fourth floor.”
She immediately ran downstairs to look, and saw her son lying on the marble floor of the academic building, bone sticking out of his leg with his pants all soaked. Right then, several teachers all came out. Her son was still conscious but he made no response when they spoke to him.
The son was taken to the hospital. When he saw the two of them were alone, he told her, “I gave the letter of guarantee to Teacher Gao, but the teacher said I wrote it wrong and that I’d have to go home first. How could I do it at home? The teachers keep all my books at school. I really can’t go on living, so I jumped from the stairway of the fourth floor.”
Before he was done speaking, Li Xiju started to cry…
After 20 minutes, the reporter wanted to speak with Wang Yishan, but no matter how Li Xiju called out to him, he did not respond. She said that since the son went into surgery, he had not spoken a word.
The doctor overseeing Wang Yishan, Dr. An, said that the boy had shattered his right femur and damaged both lungs, and that although surgery had already been completed, he was still in critical condition since potentially infectious fluids were still being removed from his lungs.
An RMB 2000 “No Mistakes” Deposit
Reporters visited the school yesterday, where the academic building is six stories tall, with Wang Yishan’s classroom on the 5th floor. In the center of the building is a main hall, with the stairway winding up from it. The center of the main hall is paved with marble stone.
“This is the staircase that Wang Yishan jumped from,” said the Vice Principal Xu Gengzheng.
Reporters noticed that there was no railing protecting a portion of the staircase.
In the office of Vice Principal Xu, Teacher Gao said that Wang Yishan often cut class, and also got into a fight once. On May 4th, it was indeed Teacher Gao who told Wang Yishan to write the letter of guarantee, but once he turned the letter in, he went to class. Teacher Gao said he never told Wang Yishan to go home. Wang Yishan jumped around 10:30 in the morning while Teacher Gao and his students were in class. No others were in the hall, and he does not know how Wang Yishan jumped. He said he did in fact “get the letter from Wang Yishan, but didn’t not accept it.”
“What do you think about Wang Yishan’s personality?”
“Wang Yishan is a very stubborn little boy. He doesn’t like to listen to anybody. It doesn’t matter who’s talking to him.”
Teacher Gao said that the teachers had not treated Wang Yishan unfairly at all.
Reporters had seen a “no mistakes” deposit slip at Wang Yishan’s home. The contents of the deposit were: if the student does not use the internet, does not go out by himself, etc. until June of 2013, the RMB 2000 deposit will be returned. Otherwise, the student will be expelled and the deposit will not be returned. The recipient of the deposit was a teacher from Wuzhi Middle school, and the deposit slip was stamped with the student enrollment office of the school. The date of receipt of the funds was January 9th, 2013.
Vice Principal Xu said that certain grades have in fact issued deposits from some trouble-making students in order to guarantee that the would not cause trouble in the future.
A school that has been criticized for scheduling additional classes
Reporters noted that May 4th was a weekend day, and that according to national law, students should not be attending class that day.
In order to reduce the burden of middle school students, the Ministry of Education and the Henan Education Department have repeatedly sent notifications that classes may not be scheduled on weekend days. In an announcement made in September of 2009, the Henan Education Department stressed again that all elementary and middle schools, public and private alike, must adhere to holiday policies and not schedule classes on holidays, and that schools found in violation of the rules twice would be given warnings according to the violation system, with main school administrators being dealt with harshly.
So why did Wuzhi Middle School hold class on May 4th?
According to Vice Principal Xu, the school “has no choice” but to hold classes since all the public schools in Wuzhi county do so. If Wuzhi Middle School doesn’t hold class on those days and grades go down, what could they do? Additionally, if they didn’t hold classes, parents would say that the school is being too lax. The parents aren’t willing to let the students off either.
The reporter learned that students only took a one-day vacation for the Labor Day holiday, and that they were in class for the remaining two days. The Wuzhi County Education Department Curriculum Section Director Zhang Aijun said that the school had once been criticized for holding classes during holidays.
Holistic education vs test-oriented education
Interviews by Dahe News reporters with numerous parents show they feel that on the one hand, the central government is stressing holistic education, and on the other hand, they have to take into account the ever increasing stress from the entrance exams for high school and university; schools want to improve their graduation rates and parents want to have successful children, but the Department of Education keep making rules prohibiting extra classes. Is it hard on just the kids?
Interviews with several of Wang Yishan’s relatives show that he is indeed stubborn.
So, how should schools look after the psychological health education of students?
Vice Principal Xu says he has previously invited a psychological specialist to the school to talk to students about psychological health and give them psychological guidance, as well as talk to them about being good to their parents and being thankful for what they have. But it now appears that the psychological education that students receive is not enough.
According to Zhang Aijun, some issues do in fact exist within the education received by students at Wuzhi Middle School. It is absolutely improper to ask a student to drop out and go home, and the school has not done enough to support the psychological education of students.
“After this event occurred, the top priority of Wuzhi Middle School is to immediately provide psychological interventions for students at the school, so as to not have any negative effects on the psychological health of the students.” Wang Haiyong, Director of the Zhengzhou Educational Association Educational Psychology Research Institute, says that in the past few years many schools and academic departments have stressed the importance of psychological health education in elementary and middle school students, but numerous violent incidents have proven that there is still not enough psychological health education for adolescent students. Wang Haiyong also said that the school is responsible in this incident. With the school being a place where people are educated, when students have problems, the education can be criticized. There are many ways to educate children, but no child should be denied the right to compulsory education, and nobody has the right to make a student drop out of school. At the same time, Wang suggests that the parents of elementary and middle school students should learn a bit about psychological health education, and share the responsibility of bringing up psychologically healthy children.
According to Zhang Aijun, the Wuzhi County Education Department is currently organizing a group of staff members to conduct a special investigation of the Wang Yishan incident.
Original publication date: 5/6/2013