Ever wondered what it would be like to spend your primary school years in a cave fit enough for Batman? I know, right! It would beat sitting in generic rooms with uncomfortable chairs, tiny tables, eating questionable school dinners and then there’s the homework! However, these are things that we all tend to take for granted during our younger years at school. Although in a cave the children in Guizhou, a province in China, do not feel like they have Alfred as a classmate and felt grateful for the facilities that they were able to provide to ensure their education.
Being one of the poorest areas in China, Guizhou is exposed to drought, water and food shortages. Here children are deprived of schools and education. Using natural resources, local residents built a primary school within a local cave, calling the school “Dongzhung” (translated as “In cave”). The school was opened in 1984 and 8 teachers taught 186 grateful pupils. The number of pupils in the classroom was higher than your average class, but this shows the extent of what the locals were willing to do to ensure as many children as possible could get an education.
Despite the sparse, dusty and rather dark interior the locals built the “crazy classroom” structure out of wood and other recycled materials… the building technique managed to do the trick! Understanding the importance of “leisure time” during breaks, they even made a make-shift basketball court for the pupils to enjoy during their recess and the same space could be used for PE lessons as well.
“Biology is a hands on experience thanks to influx of lizards and bats- a haven for the instruction of biology”
Other lessons were taught using their natural surroundings, taking a different approach than our usual numeracy and literacy! Published books were not an option so teachers used lizards and bats to teach instead. Biology and geology are subjects that are quite “hands on” anyway, so the environment was ideal! The use of sensory equipment is paramount in class so these types of lessons were beneficial to the pupils, despite having limited resources. Teachers were chuffed with what they achieved making use of their surroundings, in fact they even mentioned that the acoustics of the cave were perfect for choir training! It is all about making the most of what you have been given and this was certainly proven.
The “mid-cave primary school” may not have been your everyday, stereotypical school, but it was very popular in the area. Wanting to make sure that they get the most out of education, some pupils spent up to six hours a day travelling to and from the school… that’s dedication! Being too proud and not wanting to be seen as a “nation of cavemen”, the government closed the school in 2011. However, with the local population crying out for the need of the school, funding was approved for a “proper” school in the area, allowing the children to have at least something relating to an education to set them up for their future careers.
It’s inspiring to have seen what lengths local people will go to, to make sure that the younger generation is able to get an education to improve their lives. The people of Guizhou made the most of their location and any resources they could find. Although limited, they managed to do what they could to ensure lessons were carried out and finally putting up a good fight to make sure that the beneficial process could continue.