Taiwanese, Chinese college students on rural teaching mission

Hundreds of college students from Taiwan and China embarked on a volunteer journey Saturday that will see them travel to rural areas in the two countries over the summer to teach less advantaged youngsters.

Close to 300 students from National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) and 20 Chinese universities, including Peking University and Beijing's Tsinghua University, are scheduled to teach in 30 rural schools, NTNU said.

The students will emulate the spirit of Confucius, who is reputed to have traveled to many places and who proposed education for all, according to NTNU.

Chiu Yu-tung (邱昱東), a special education major at NTNU who will volunteer his time at Da Jia Junior High School in Taichung, said his biggest goal is to accompany the youngsters and hear their voices.

'I once harbored negative thoughts because I encountered more difficulty in learning than my peers,' said the 18-year-old visually impaired student.

'Luckily, my teachers did not give up on me, but instead gave me support, help and company, as well as more time and flexibility, so that I could learn at my own pace and gradually develop the courage to face my imperfections,' he said.

In his class, he plans to teach students the skill of mind-mapping to generate ideas, Chiu said.

He will also have his students wear blindfolds while piecing together puzzles, and unravel the meaning of an article with scrambled words, to help them develop empathy for visually impaired people and people with learning disabilities, he said.

'I hope to show them that society is diverse and that they shouldn't measure everyone by the same standards,' Chiu said.

Inkar Jarkin, who majors in social work and social policy at China's Nanjing University, will teach at Makung Junior High School in Taiwan's outlying Penghu County.

The ethnic Kazakh from Tacheng in Xinjiang's Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture said she hopes to introduce the culture, history, geography, architecture and food of her hometown to Taiwanese youngsters.

Her upbringing in Tacheng has motivated her to care more about rural education, Jarkin said.

After attending college in Nanjing, the 22-year-old said she was acutely aware of the gap between her and her classmates who grew up in the big cities and enjoyed better educational resources.

'The equal distribution of educational resources is very important because it can impact the life of an individual,' she said.

In addition to teaching, Jarkin, who is visiting Taiwan for the first time, hopes to get to know more about Taiwan's aboriginal culture.

'Before coming to Taiwan, I saw the movie 'Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale' and I could identify with it because the Kazakh people have also been invaded by others,' Jarkin said.

Meanwhile, Vincent Chan (陳勝陽) and Koey Lee (李潔瑩), both education majors at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said they hope to introduce Hong Kong and Cantonese culture to young people in Taiwan.

'Through us, I hope they will feel the passion and enthusiasm of Hong Kong people,' Lee said.

The volunteers will begin their seven-day service in Taiwan on July 11.

From July 22 to Aug. 3, they will travel to China and teach in less-advantaged schools in Shaanxi, Qinghai, Hubei, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces, as well as the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and the cities of Chongqing and Beijing.

The annual teaching program was launched by NTNU in 2010. During its first year, 140 college students from Taiwan and China traveled to 16 rural schools to teach.

(By Christie Chen)