The first weekend of May, I was able to travel to Shanghai for the first time. It was a really blessed visit and a great introduction to my new home. I spent most of the long weekend with my predecessor in Shanghai, Josie, who is still living and working there (she is returning to grad school in the U.S. this fall).
The main reason for my visit was to attend a special ceremony for the first group of CWEF scholarship recipients at Mengshan Migrant School. This is the first school in the Shanghai area to partner with CWEF for scholarships of this kind. We have started with an initial group of 15 students. In the future, we plan to expand to more students at the Mengshan school and partner with additional schools in the area.
So, why is CWEF providing scholarships to kids in Shanghai? The simple answer is that this is one of the most effective tools we have to combat poverty into the future for these kids and their families. The families that send kids to this school have recently moved to Shanghai from more rural parts of the country, mainly from the provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui, and Sichuan. They have moved to the big city for better job opportunities and better education options for their children.
However, just like many new immigrants to America, many of these families struggle to get by in the land of opportunity. In our first group of scholarship recipients, only one parent out of nearly 30 has attended high school, so naturally most of the parents are manual laborers. The typical situation is that the father works construction while the mother works in a factory. Some parents can only find temporary work. The average annual income per family is about 12,000 RMB (US$1,750). Total family size ranges from as few as 3 to as many as 8.
As you can imagine, the financial burden is heavy for these families, especially for those who are trying to put two or three kids through school at the same time. Most work long hours and some go into debt to finance their children’s education.
The government covers tuition for these students to attend the Mengshan Migrant School, but the families are responsible for the school fees, which are 800 RMB per school year and pay for insurance, lunches, and uniforms. The CWEF scholarships cover these fees, helping to reduce some of the families’ financial burden.
At the ceremony, we officially presented the kids with the scholarships. Afterward, we had some time to chat with them and with Mr. Zhou, the school principal. I also had a good time playing some basketball with a few of the older guys.
The scholarship recipients are remarkable kids. They are between 12 and 16 years of age. Bright and ambitious, they are very conscious of how important their education is. Here are a couple quotes from their scholarship applications:
“I am tough and confident. Even though our financial situation is very bad and some schoolmates look down on me, I remember this sentence "The mind is not poor even if the person is poor." If our financial situation is worse than others, my studies have to be better. I have always wanted to be a doctor to help the ones in need.”
“Watching my parents working so hard for us, I decided that I will study hard. The children in the city all study very hard. I want to be like them but my family’s financial situation is very bad, and I'm worried that one day I will just have to drop out. I heard that you might be able to help us and am really happy. If I receive your kind help, I will study harder and contribute back to the society. Thank you very much!”