the death of a freshman


The Death of a Freshman

 

August 26, 2006, Saturday was a free day for me and the other teachers of English in the grade. Since August 1, we have been giving Senior 3 students extra lessons despite the hot weather.

 

When I was in the classroom on the morning of August 27, I found a boy, Mr. Lu Shigong, was depressed, with his head on the desk, as if he was asleep. It was quite unusual for he was normally an active and enthusiastic learner in my class. I thought that probably he was sick and then asked his deskmate what was the matter.

 

“Sir, nothing is wrong with him. Probably he had a troubled sleep last night.”

 

“Oh, what happened to him?”

 

“Nothing has happened to him. But sir, don’t you know something happened in the school?”

 

At this moment, it occurred to me that something serious must have happened in the school the day before. I was not aware of it because I had not been at work the day before. The conversation went on.

 

“No, I don’t know. Gosh, what happened?”

 

“A student jumped to his death yesterday morning.”

 

Thump! Something heavy fell onto my heart.

 

“Why?”

 

“Sir, we don’t know. We know he was a freshman and that he jumped from the corridor outside his dorm on the fourth floor (British usage here).”

 

“Did he die the moment he hit the ground?” A cruel question, but I had to ask it.

 

“Yes, he did. We didn’t see him jump, but we saw him lying there motionless, with our own eyes.”

 

By now, Mr. Lu Shigong had woken up. I asked him if he was OK. He told me that he was OK and asked me not to worry about him.

 

I bet limited numbers of students saw the dead student. That is why I found the whole affair was covered up so well. I taught in the morning and while I was working in the office in the afternoon, none of my colleagues talked about it. It was obvious that they knew nothing about it. The next day I asked my students in the other class if they knew something serious had happened in the school, their answer was NO. Of course I didn’t tell them the truth.

 

The next day, my colleagues started talking about the incident in the office. I didn’t join them and I said nothing. I just listened in to their chats and this is what I learned from their conversation.

 

The boy came from a poor peasant family in one of the satellite counties. My school enrolls the students from the satellite counties through the high school entrance exam. He was an excellent student. And his score in that exam was very high indeed. And he has got an elder brother currently being a second grader in the school. The family had financial problems, having to support two of their sons in high school. But the school authorities had promised to grant financial assistance to those kids who are from underprivileged families. That is why the teenager had chosen to study in the same school as his elder brother had. I bet his brother did get monetary aid from the school every semester. I know the program though the money granted is not a big sum. But it is better than nothing.

 

The newcomers got enrolled and registered on August 23. Then they were scheduled to do military training for a week. Of course they got settled in their classrooms and their dorms. And they met their head teachers, too. In a dorm there could be students from different family grounds. Some are from well-off families, while others poor families. The student shared the dorm probably with some kids from the city, and he felt the sharp contrast between them and him. The difference made him miserable. The last straw came when, the day before he died, his army officer ordered all the boys to wear a certain kind of shoes for uniformity, which he could not afford. My guess is that he was wearing those homemade shoes. In school, occasionally I still see some country boys and girls wearing homemade shoes. They are not as cool as those brand names like Nike or Adidas, but to be honest they are good, in my opinion. He could not afford the shoes, and on the distressing morning of August 26, when all the students were getting up, he jumped off the building and ended his life. When his body was searched, only a 5 yuan banknote was found in one of his pockets. 5 yuan! How long could you survive in this material and commercial society on that?

 

This is what I have learned so far about the whole affair. The authorities have not come up with an answer. I bet they have some music to face. I am still waiting for their account of the death at the next all staff meeting. Since it is the beginning of the semester, the authorities have tried to cover up the incident and they are successful. Very few people around me know about it.

 

I feel bad about the incident. I know how the boy felt before he died. I came from a poor family as a student and I still remember the shame I felt when I had to wear the homemade cotton-padded overcoat my mom made for me when I was a high school student. Most of my classmates were wearing a ready made overcoat their parents bought for them in the stores. My overcoat looked dumb and stupid. In fact I felt so shameful then that I took it off that winter and got through the freezing weather wearing only my autumn clothes!

 

The gap between the rich and the poor is widening in this country of ours. It is strongly felt in my school. It is a black and white contrast. Some of my students are from rural areas. They wear common clothes. They spend their money sparingly. They work hard. But some do not. Many others come from rich families. They play well, owning gadgets like an MP3 player and having internet friends and doing the so-called cool stuff. Some of these kids are good. But some are not. Some teachers gave them a nickname – New Three Good Students (this is a queer name to a foreign ear, but very Chinese), for they eat well, play well and sleep well in class. You can feel the ridicule there.

 

There is a lot that the government should do concerning the widening gap between the social classes. The general trend is that the living standards have been rising in China year by year, which we are grateful for. On the other hand, social unrest could result from the widening gap should no effective measures be taken by the authorities.

 

In my future blog entries, if possible, I will talk about high school education in China.

 

Boy, may you find your peace in heaven. I remember you.

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23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa
    Sep 03, 2006 @ 01:17:43

    Hi,Shengliver
      I read your this article three times,I can feel your mood all when you heard of this thing,it’s really a sorrowful incident!A poor boy!So pity of him!If I was his teacher or parents I’ll be sad till death that everyone all can’t face this cruel incident in the real life…Maybe you can forget it little by little that you should know we have to face those powerless things sometimes.Maybe we can call this "maturity"—We are all old so we’ll face to face  more life and death,just like me like me,I have to face to one of my student’s death that he died an motorbike-truck-hitting accident two years ago.He was only 14…Just last term I had to face to two relatives’ death,my mother-in-law and my grandma,two elders…Maybe the boy is more pity because the poor caused him death,he was so youny and so excellent,it was so difficult for him that he can enter your school…But I feel from the other side it showed that our education is unseccessful that the students only have high score but have no strong bear-power…the poor is no terrible but there were so many students who they are have high score but have no high skills that I mean that their life skills by themselves are so poor…OK, I know my English is very limited,but it’s really my real feeling.I hope you can be happy soon.
                                                              sincerely
                                                                      Lisa
     

    Reply

  2. 卓尔与龙吟
    Sep 03, 2006 @ 05:23:00

    no sooner had i got into your "home" with a  cheerful mood than i saw  the title of your new article—-the dead of a freshman. then my smile gone away at once. i felt a heavy stone pressing on my heart.i was shocked by the incident. and i had kept  heartbreakingly sad when i was reading  the article. his parents must had overcome more difficult to support his growing up. a wonderful life was waiting for him, but now everything had gone, only left sadness to his relations and friends.as a person of the same occupation, i could understand you, and agree with your opinions.i expected i  could read the articles reflecting the education in china.

    Reply

  3. Shengliver
    Sep 03, 2006 @ 12:12:45

    Lisa and Maria, thank you both.

    Reply

  4. 巧彦
    Sep 03, 2006 @ 12:21:24

    dear shengliver,
       This is the first time i came here. I was immediately attracted by the style of your bolg. After reading the first two articles, I was moved so deeply that a strong desire came to me to write sth down.
        As a university student, I’ve heard lots of news on suicides of university students. Actually, I was not so shocked by the incident here.But what moved me so much is your description on your shame feeling when you were a poor high school student. It sounds just like my experience when I was in junior high school. Now in college I’m still not as rich as some of others, but I won’t feel shamed because of my cheap clothes. Students here judge people by their personalities, qualities, spirits and the way they treat others instead of the money their parents own. 
        So, what I really want to say is the high shool students’ view on value(I’ve no idea if it is the correct translation of 价值观). I think if my teachers told the class then that you hadn’t to be shamed about the external staff, coz you had a high quality and bright future, I wouldn’t have to suffer from the shame feeling. Now that we cannot change the wide gap between rich and poor, education should do the best to help students to form a right view of value. That can help to reduce the tragedy.
         Additionally, you are so kindhearded. Thankk you!

    Reply

  5. Su
    Sep 04, 2006 @ 03:13:37

    It’s a toally big social problem,not only exists in school.This kind of tragedies happen times and times again.When i was a teacher, i had to face value education.But i found, what i could do for them is just less.The problem is not only from the education ,but also from the social,the judgement and the gap between rich and poor.So i quit,’cause my disappointed,’cause i could not change the whole situation.The effect from sociaty is much more than from school.So the responsibities on teachers are really heavy. Good luck to you!

    Reply

  6. Unknown
    Sep 06, 2006 @ 04:47:11

    hi,shengliver.
    i read your article two times.at the same time,my eyes are full of tears.so sorry to hear that, what a pity the boy is!the year before last,there was a girl jumped to her death in our local junior school,she  quarreled with her teacher in the class,because of sarcasm from her teacher.after class,she fell off  the fourth floor. i never heard that students were suicides for their poverty,poor boy! he should communicate with school or his teachers in time, they can help him. there are a lot of people who are beneficent around us. if i meet this circs, i will . but i want to say the responsibility on teacher is really heavy,education of psycology is very important. most of current students , their mentality is very flimsy.it’s  hard to express for me in english.
     
                                                       moonriver

    Reply

  7. Unknown
    Sep 06, 2006 @ 16:14:20

    Dear Mr,thanks for your land of my website! And it’s how you find it attracts my interest! First please pardon me that i make a link of your web without your agreement, i just want to read your articles more easily! It’s your student Sun Knight, who strongly recommend it for me in an English group via QQ! Obviously
    your articles is the kind i like! I can get many moving stories, and it do me a great deal of good  on my English learning! You can see that how poor of my English, so l just want to improve it utmostly!
         I’m waiting for your new articles! Thanks!

    Reply

  8. Leo-布衣
    Sep 07, 2006 @ 15:18:06

    Hello~~~
     
    Frankly speaking,it is not the first time to be here. Several days ago i got to know ur blog here but felt greatly surprised and sorry for the boy in this log.That’s why i didn’t say anything here.
     
    i also come from a low-income family,actually poor indeed,hehe.So i think i can understand him to some extent and can still recall some embarrassing situations.
     
    anyway,life is so precious that we’d all cherish.

    Reply

  9. 简.爱
    Sep 14, 2006 @ 01:34:41

    怎么会这样呢?真难过。漂亮的新学校似乎没有带来更多,我们在老学校里艰苦的生活也从来没有失去过希望啊。潸然泪下……

    Reply

  10. 浣晨
    Sep 17, 2006 @ 11:29:58

    What a pity the freshman is! 

    Reply

  11. shanedezign
    Sep 21, 2006 @ 18:57:59

    It’s a sad story, it makes my heart heavy. oh boy, God will bless you in the heaven.
    wish you had a good and happy life there.

    Reply

  12. Shengliver
    Sep 22, 2006 @ 06:49:16

    Thank you all.

    Reply

  13. kun
    Sep 22, 2006 @ 13:04:05

    I saw ur debut performance in UC chatting room sponsored SINA, your english was impressive with its fluence and the composure that  only owned by masters. Your blog is a door that opens to folks without threshold, showing all your shining characters.
     
    The first blog i read was pretty depressing becasue i saw a life buried in a society that the materilism is the mainstream. The english writting is outstandingly professional, i can understand the effort that u have put upon. It is even more so after i read the other one that featuring your  hard-working life journey. 
     
    I will keep up with u blog

    Reply

  14. Shengliver
    Sep 22, 2006 @ 23:41:09

    Oh, Wang Kun!

    Reply

  15. Unknown
    Sep 28, 2006 @ 07:18:13

    So sorry to know this kind of things, though I know more other lives are killed every day in current China, by the damn values.
     
    We shouldn’t criticize the guy have no strong bear-power or something, how old is him, A freshman of high school? I remember when I came to the same school(Yunyang high school), I was just 14. We shouldn’t expect too much to such a young guy, esp when he comes from a poor family. There is no problem with this poor boy, he is just a victim for this time, for this country.
     
    God didn’t make us to be equal, but people can try to make all equal under god. This is a dream, a beautiful dream which may never come true. But to our normal guys, we can at least work hard to let our children get away from this kind of tragedies. If possible, we can also help some others from them.
     
    Mr. Wang, don’t be too depressed. An incurable pessimist is not ur style. C’est la vie, this is the real world which we live in.
     
    Joey.Yin
    (once was ur student).

    Reply

  16. D.
    Sep 29, 2006 @ 21:07:51

    Hi Mr Wang! So glad to find your blog, and so sad for the boy.
     
    I had a similar experience when I was at YYHS. I also came from a poor family, and sometimes felt shamed since my wearing was not as good as the others’ and I cannot afford what I wanted. Though I believed I could own these in the future, it was impossible to get rid of such feelings at that moment. Moving YYHS from YunXian to ShiYan may not be a good idea from this perspective, since the living cost increases.
     
    Now I can afford many things I want, however, I still feel differences between me and guys from rich families. They may know more and master more. People like me did not have many chances to learn more during our childhood. It is quite difficult to completely eliminate the gap.
     
    Dongrui Wu,
    Your former student
     
    PS: Mr Wang, you are definitely the best English teacher I had ever met in China. I felt lucky to be your student. Wish you all the best!
     

    Reply

  17. Vivian
    Oct 12, 2006 @ 16:18:02

    离开郧阳中学很多年了,差不多有些模糊了,偶然看到王老师的blog,就看到这个令人心痛的事情,这才使我想起在当年就读的时候同窗好友们艰苦的求学环境,自己家里还算可以,但是看到那些出身贫苦而成绩优异的好友,很是敬佩,也曾相助过他们,其实这需要我们应该更多的关心来自贫困山区的孩子,郧阳地区都是国家级贫困县,当然教育的成本也实在太高了,而且大学生就业也并不乐观啊,何时中国能成为免费义务教育的国家呢?

    Reply

  18. hunter
    Oct 20, 2006 @ 08:13:28

    王老师好!您在博客上也坚持分析英语,真是敬佩!
     
    刘航

    Reply

  19. Unknown
    Nov 07, 2006 @ 11:50:09

    Hi,Shengliver!Glad to meet you here! I’m a new comer.

    Reply

  20. Unknown
    Nov 07, 2006 @ 11:52:44

    Hi,shengliver

    Reply

  21. angel
    Nov 14, 2006 @ 15:44:11

    very sad!but you a great teacher.keep on doing what you do to your dearest students.and use your heart to warm them,to guide them for the study,the life,and the future career!
     
    I salute and pay my respect to you!

    Reply

  22. Chris
    Nov 15, 2006 @ 14:10:12

    I met the same situation in the university.I feel helpless.

    Reply

  23. jlj
    Nov 17, 2006 @ 22:53:00

    Hi, my teacher. I am Nuan from Hangzhou. It is a long time since i came here last time. This semester I have been very busy. Thank you for your writings here. There are too many education social problems to be settled more properly. Best wishes to you!

    Reply

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