BN Vocational School's fundraising gala held in Beijing
Angolan students perform a dance titled "Cleaning" along with their peers from Yinchuan's BN vocational school at a fundraising gala in Beijing, January 29, 2018. [Photo: BN Vocational School]
The BN vocational school is a chain institution that has a reputation for helping educate children from poor backgrounds. In China, it is the first tuition-free, non-profit charitable vocational school for senior secondary level education in China.
Since its establishment, this brand of schools has established campuses in various cities across the country. Recently they held a special fundraising gala staged in Beijing, with participants coming from China and Africa.
CRI's Shen Ting has more.
Sixteen-year-old Zeng Xingping (曾幸平) joined the BN Vocational School in late 2017.
"When I first entered this school, everything felt new that I even became afraid of this new environment. I immediately started feeling homesick. I even attempted to drop out of school. But after getting to know some of my teachers and other classmates, I gradually felt more and more comfortable."
Like many of his peers, Zeng is from a poor family that lives in a small village in Weiyuan County of Gansu Province. His father is unable to support the family due to severe cirrhosis of liver- a condition he has had for a long time. Even though the local county government subsidizes his father's medical bills; it's still not enough to help pull his family out of poverty. And just like his favourite quote "Knowledge can change fate", Zeng understands that it's through education that he can help change his family's lifestyle. Thanks to BN school, he is able to get just that; a good education.
Today，Zeng and his classmates are performing at the schools gala in Beijing.
A teacher and her 19 students with Zhengzhou's BN vocational school perform and dance to the song 'Searching for Plum Blossoms in Snow' at a fundraising gala in Beijing, January 29, 2018. [Photo: BN Vocational School]
Huangfu Jing (皇甫静), principal of the Zhengzhou BN vocational school, is thrilled by the progress of the kids.
"We have a teacher and 19 students who will perform at this evening gala. They will be performing and dancing to the song 'Searching for Plum Blossoms in Snow'. Looking back in August when these students first entered our school，there are big changes in their personality. They even look different from what they looked like upon their arrival. They have become more open-minded, self-confident and are a lot more active."
Joyce Xu Juan is a member of the BN Vocational School Council. She often helps the school organize a number of fundraising activities like this one-by mobilizing resources in the art and culture industry to support the school's development programs.
"We've employed professional teachers to guide in their shows tonight. In fact, we attach importance to rebuilding these children's personalities through the arts. In their school, there are choir and reading clubs, where they can go and do their favorite activities."
Since the first BN Vocational School was launched in 2005 in Beijing, a chain of schools in the same management format with the same guiding principle have been set up in several other Chinese cities.
The Zhengzhou BN vocational school is among the many founded in 2010.
Huangfu Jing says that her school aims at providing students from poverty-stricken families with pre-employment trainings to ensure that they become highly skilled at various jobs.
Currently the Zhengzhou school, which has a total of 85 students, is more focused on yielding kindergarten teachers and electricians.
"The enrollment mainly targets 16 to 18-year-old junior school graduates. Their academic performance and learning ability is very weak. Due to the impact of poverty on educational outcomes for these children, they feel inferior, ashamed and so they turn out to be mostly introverted. My school intends to gradually bring a little sunshine into their hearts and make them more open-minded."
As a student, Zeng is concentrating on acquiring a skill in cooking halal based recipes. He acknowledges that being at his school is a lot more than learning technical skills. He talks about his performance today.
"I'm thankful for being given such a valuable opportunity to be on the stage. My parents are very proud of me. During the rehearsals, I took some pictures and sent to them. My mom used to be fond of square dance. I think I'm realizing her dream. Unfortunately my parents will never have an opportunity like this."
On stage, Zeng Xingping danced in a fun, interesting, and creative way alongside his schoolmates. There were also guest performers in this dance: they are from Angola.
Diao Wen, also a member of the BN Vocational School Council, details on these special guests.
"The Angolan students would give a dance show, named "Cleaning". They come from the BN Vocational School in Angola. It offers lessons on masonry, electrical wiring of buildings and machinery operation and also services, in a hope that local students would obtain their ideal job upon graduation. In addition to the Angolan schoolmaster, the school also hires local Angolan teachers. The Angolan replica has adapted our principle and approaches in school management."
The BN Vocational School in Angola was set up in 2014 with the help of the CITIC Construction Company.
The Chinese construction company is willing to help more than just invest in the local infrastructure. That's how the first overseas BN vocational school was established.
Diao Wen thinks, though arranging their students to perform at the gala is an unprecedented experience in the school's history, it's the best way to make donors understand how the underprivileged youth are helped to improve their lifestyle.
"Our donors who attended this evening gala were pleasantly surprised to see positive changes in these students who initially were struggling at the bottom of society and living in poverty. But today, seeing that they can perform on a professional theatre stage like this, as well as their progress in their English language ability, the donors can get direct feedback to evaluate how their donations have been helpful for the youngsters."
Wang Jiajun (王佳俊) is a chef now working in a five-star hotel in Dalian, a city in northeast China. Wang has lived on the donations from all sides of the society since his father died when he was just eight.
In 2014, Wang Jiajun graduated from the BN Vocational School in Dalian. He was granted an honorary title for the best-performed vocational school student in 2015 by China's Ministry of Education. He talks about his relationship with the school after his graduation.
"At school, I could clearly feel the concern of warm-hearted donors. The school made me feels at home. I hold clear the help I received from my teachers, who were all very careful to impart knowledge to each student. Upon my graduation, I donated all my salary as an intern in the first month to my mother school. What this school gave me is a lot more than what I could ever repay."
According to Xu Juan, Wang Jiajun is just but one of the many success stories that the school has produced. There are also others with similar stories that attended the gala.
"Alongside the gala, they have a schoolmates' party, having invited the very first group of graduates who left school a dozen years ago. Some of them have grown up into senior managers at their companies. I even heard that there is a girl who became a business partner of a famous accounting firm. It's beyond anyone's imagination that a vocational school changed the destiny of these students and even their families."
The BN Vocational School is subsidized by the Project Hope of the China Youth Development Foundation and the Project Hope's Vocational Education Fund. It has campuses located in a total of nine Chinese cities, namely Beijing, Chengdu, Dalian, Sanya, Wuhan, Yinchuan, Zhengzhou, Lijiang and Meizhou.
The school is leading the way in poverty alleviation efforts in China.
Through schools like this one- education is helping raise the life of underprivileged and boosting their creativity levels. Therefore the school's administration hopes that they can make a difference in many other people's lives.
For CRI, I'm Shen Ting.