China News Service, Beijing, December 12 (Xinhua) -- The 3th anniversary of the implementation of the Western Plan: Desert gardeners build an educational oasis

Written by Zeng Yue

Drive to Tianhang Experimental School, Aksu City, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. It is located at the southern foot of the Tianshan Mountains, in the upper reaches of the Tarim River, surrounded by the top of the snow-capped mountains hidden in the clouds.

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the University Students' Volunteer Service in the Western Region Program (hereinafter referred to as the "Western Plan"), reporters from China News Service accompanied the staff of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League to many places in southern Xinjiang to search for volunteers of the Western Plan, and Tianhang Experimental School was the first stop.

Walking into the teaching building of Tianhang Experimental School, two huge pictorials stand in front of each other - one side is a picture of the Tianshan Mountains, and the other is a picture of the landscape of the south of the Yangtze River. According to Cui Zhenqiang, deputy secretary of the party branch and president of the school, and a volunteer of the 2007 Western Plan, this is a school built with the aid of Hangzhou, Zhejiang, which means that "the people of Hangzhou and Aksu have produced beautiful educational achievements at the foot of the Tianshan Mountains".

On August 8, Cui Zhenqiang, deputy secretary of the Party branch and principal of Tianhang Experimental School in Aksu City, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and volunteer of the Western Xinjiang Program. Photo by Zeng Yue

In 2007, after graduating from Hexi University, Cui Zhenqiang became a volunteer of the Western Project and came to Aksu. A year later, he passed the special post teacher recruitment examination and entered the local education system. In the past 15 years of teaching career, Cui Zhenqiang has successively taught in Aksu No. <> Middle School, Aksu Senior High School, and Aksu Tianhang Experimental School, during which he participated in the preparation of many kindergartens, junior high and high schools.

When it comes to students, Cui Zhenqiang repeatedly mentions the word "moved". "A lot of the students I've taught have graduated from college and gone on to work. I am most proud of my children returning to the western part of their homeland and returning to work in Aksu. Many of them chose to become a teacher, just like me, and I think it's a legacy that touches me very much. ”

Living in Xinjiang for 16 years has changed many of Cui Zhenqiang's living habits. "When I first came to Xinjiang, I couldn't smell the smell of mutton, and I couldn't get used to eating rice sausages and noodles and lungs, but now I have gradually liked the food here." He recalled that when he first started working, he often prepared for classes until the early hours of the morning, "I was hungry in the middle of the night and had nothing to eat, but I had rice sausages and noodles and lungs from Uyghur villagers, so I slowly got used to eating." Cui Zhenqiang said with a smile, "I miss it now that I don't eat once in a while." ”

In the past ten years, not only people are changing, but the city is also changing. From the donkey cart that used to run on the road, to the separation of people and vehicles, "three steps to a street, five steps to a garden", Cui Zhenqiang sighed, "The city is getting more and more beautiful". With his parents, lovers, and children living in Xinjiang, Cui Zhenqiang has already settled his home in Aksu, "so that I can engage in education work with more peace of mind, and it also makes me determined to take root in Xinjiang."

Since the implementation of the Western Plan in 2003, tens of thousands of volunteers like Cui Zhenqiang have come to Xinjiang to carry out volunteer services.

All the way to the south, the car with the words "College Students' Volunteer Service Program in the West" drove into the Taklamakan Desert and stopped in front of the primary school in Bakdun Village, Tawakule Township, Hotan County, Hotan Prefecture. Walking up the stairs of the teaching building, the fine sand left behind the soles of the shoes dotted the steps, painting the background color of this campus in the heart of the desert.

On August 8, a car with the words "College Students Volunteer Service Program in the West" drove into the Taklamakan Desert. Photo by Zeng Yue

In the classroom, Wu Shenao, a volunteer of the 2023 Western Plan, is teaching Chinese lessons to the sixth-grade children. The first lesson of the new semester is about "Five Heroes of Langya Mountain". In the teacher's office adjacent to the classroom, there are also 35 volunteers of the Western Plan who are in the same class as the Wuhan Olympic Games.

According to Principal Yang Bin, there are currently 6 students in six grades at Bakdun Village Primary School, and all the school's teaching work is undertaken by volunteers of the Western Plan.

At the end of 2017, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Committee of the Communist Youth League began to explore a new model of education poverty alleviation. Since July 2018, the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Youth League Committee has been responsible for teaching at Bakdun Primary School, and the teaching team is composed of college student volunteers from colleges and universities across the country. In 7, the Volunteer Relay Teaching Service Team of the Western Program of Bakedun Village Primary School won the 2022th "May Fourth Medal of Chinese Youth".

"Here, not only am I teaching the children knowledge, but the children are also teaching me the truth of life, and we learn and grow together." Yan Jinpei, a volunteer of the 2023 Western China Project, who also teaches Chinese, said, "I hope that through the hard work of our teachers from generation to generation, the children will really have the opportunity to go out and see the broader world outside." ”

At the back of the classroom in Year 1 (<>), there is a "signature wall" with children's names clustered with blackboard posters that say "The End and the Beginning". Wu Shenao told reporters that the children in the graduating class have a common goal - to be admitted to the junior class, get out of the desert, and go to a farther place.

The Inner Junior Class is a preferential education policy for rural primary schools in remote agricultural and pastoral areas or urban primary schools in poor and border counties to recruit fresh graduates, aiming to provide all children in Xinjiang with access to high-quality educational opportunities.

On August 8, Wu Shenao, a volunteer of the 25 Western Plan, was teaching "Five Heroes of Langya Mountain". Photo by Zeng Yue

Stepping into December, the countdown to the entrance examination for the new junior class has entered 12 days. Wu Shenao, Yan Jinpei, and other teachers at Bakedun Village Primary School have been busy checking and filling in the gaps for the children, hoping to get good results in the final exams in January and the preliminary exams in May. Cui Zhenqiang has just completed the third round of home visits, and is preparing to inspect the heating installation and check the heating temperature in the teaching building, every week after the winter.

"I really didn't expect that the decision I made 16 years ago would have such a big impact on my life," Cui Zhenqiang said emotionally looking back, "This experience is unforgettable and a valuable life treasure." Yan Jinpei also used "unforgettable" and "precious" to describe the feeling of participating in the western plan, "just like our vow, to do something unforgettable in a short period of time." (ENDS)