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City teachers get As for helping quake pupils

FORTY-EIGHT male and 12 female Shanghai teachers, aged from 32 to 58, were sent to schools in 19 towns and villages in Dujiangyan last August. Over the past months, the teachers have developed close relations with their students.

Zhang Siheng, in his 40s, is addressed by students at Chongyi Middle School as "Papa Zhang." Zhang also brought six of his students back to Shanghai with him for Chinese New Year in January.

Thirty-two-year-old Zhou Xufeng has found it difficult to think about leaving after eight months at Liujie Elementary School.

The 190-year-old school was made famous in Shanghai when the "generous grandma" Shen Cuiying, a 64-year-old retired teacher in Shanghai, auctioned her 4.5 million yuan (US$657,000) apartment in Xujiahui to donate to the construction of the new Liujie Elementary School. Her total cash donation surpassed 8.5 million yuan.

"Almost all teachers, parents and students are aware of the donation from grandma Shen, who has come here many times to see the construction and to chat with students here. She even taught a lesson here," says Chinese teacher and vice headmaster Zhou.

Local villager Gan Tiwen has come to pick up his six-year-old grandson at the temporary classrooms of Liujie Elementary School.

He asks Shanghai Daily to bring his thanks to grandma Shen and is "very satisfied with the construction.

"My grandson will move to the new school this September. They all say that the new one is really strong and earthquake-resistant," says Gan.

The new school is built on the site of the original. Although all buildings were destroyed, Liujie Elementary School didn't lose any children in the earthquake.

All students are currently studying in the temporary schools right next to the construction site. They are expected to move to the new school this September.

The construction site workers have been rushing day and night to have all the schools open by the start of the fall semester and teachers have also got much busier this term.

Since the temporary classrooms have to be removed in May, most schools have been opening for six days a week in order to finish all their materials before that time.

Shanghai teachers didn't even take a day off for the May Day holiday. They will complete their one-year mission at the end of June and another group of teachers will come from Shanghai this August, and stay for a further year.

"It's my only teaching experience outside Shanghai and a very unique challenge," says Xie Junqi.

"We have tried our best to help out while learning a lot from local people and our students too. All the difficulties and challenges will definitely help me through confrontations in life and workin the future."


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