Shengliver’s Note: This entry features a Chinese teen called Shi Lei. He finished high school and is now in uni. A couple of issues related to Chinese prejudice against girls have prompted Shengliver to update this entry, which was published in 2008 on the MSN space.




Shi Lei joined my class at the start of this term and became a new member of the community. Obviously he had a hard time adjusting himself to the new learning style. There is fierce competition among the students. Shi Lei found it was hard to finish his assignments on time. His class director Mr Zhao scolded him many a time for his tardiness as a consequence.


I was surprised by some of his conduct. When the winter vacation was over, I had the holiday homework collected and checked. He was the only one of the students who left the English work undone. When I demanded an explanation, Shi Lei said, blank-faced, that he had had no time for it.


Some weeks ago the teachers working with this class met for a discussion of the teaching affairs. All the teachers talked about Shi Lei. We agreed to give him more encouragement. We hoped he would develop his potential further.




By reading his journal, I found out what lies behind his melancholy and listlessness.


Shi Lei is the younger of two kids of the Shi family. He has an elder sis. Both his parents are Chinese peasants. His family is not well off. I came to the conclusion from his descriptions of the family.


When Shi Lei was in primary school, the father was proud of the boy and his sis, both of whom were excellent pupils at the local primary school. The sis was even brighter and fared a bit better than the boy.


One evening, however, the father raised a question at the dinner table. He said he could not afford to keep both the kids at school and that therefore one of them had to quit. He couldn’t make a decision as to which one should drop out.


Shi Lei was troubled by his father’s words. He was sad because both his sis and he did well in school. The family did not say anything about the issue in the following days until the sis declared one evening that she would quit to keep the brother at school.


So, the sister left school and some time later joined the Chinese migratory workforce. She went to South China, where she found a job at one of the factories and started working.


Shi Lei the boy felt guilty. He was sorry for his sis. He thought that it was because of him that the sis, a brighter pupil than he himself, dropped out of school. His mind was troubled.


After the Spring Festival 2008, the sis came to visit him at his school before departing for her post in South China. The sis encouraged him to work harder at his lessons, saying that he was the family pride and her pride as well. Shi Lei expressed his regret at the fact that the sis was no longer at school. Hearing the brother’s words, the sis wept. Tears were flooding her face,the boy said in his journal.




Although China has gone through fundamental changes since 1949, some ugly traditions and beliefs die hard. Many parents put their daughters second to their sons. Some parents would go to great lengths to have a son borne even though they have had one or two daughters. Over the years I have met quite many a student whose family is of this category. This term I have three boys, Shu Yu, Wan Qiang and Zhou Kuncheng, all of whom share the same family pattern. In each of their families, there are two sisters born before the boy. While Shu Yu is already in high school, his elder sis is still in middle school. Zhou Kuncheng’s sis did well in the high school entrance exam, but his father sent her to a high school with inferior facilities because the father did not think the girl deserved education in a good school. By contrast, Kuncheng’s father took the trouble to secure a place for the son in this school of ours.




China’s economy has been growing and great wealth has been created on this ancient land. The nation should not forget our ancestors’ aspirations for an ideal China and an ideal world, a world where people enjoy happiness and freedom.


The government have to step up their efforts to provide the Chinese people with basic services – access to education, freedom from hunger, a home and health care, to name just a few.


The Chinese people have freedom to pursue their dream, be it great wealth or a quality lifestyle. For a lot of the underprivileged, it is not their fault or crime to stay in poverty. There has to be a social system safeguarding people against being deprived of their basic rights. Shi Lei’s family story is not uncommon in today’s China. The family have not the resources to keep both kids in school and it is not their fault. Failing to provide these kids with access to schooling is a blot on the Chinese nation and is a drag on the nation’s further progress.


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